Catalans Dragons are still awaiting French government approval for Super League teams to be allowed to play in Perpignan.
With just two weeks to go before Leeds Rhinos are due to visit Stade Gilbert Brutus, official documentation has not yet been granted for exemption from Covid-19 travel restrictions.
The Dragons are allowed to bypass quarantine restrictions in the UK because of an elite sports exemption secured by the RFL, but no such arrangement is yet in place in France.
Club officials are seeking urgent approval from French authorities and provisional plans are being made to hold the Leeds game (and the following week’s planned Wigan fixture at the Brutus) back in England, should permission be denied. Both Leeds and Wigan have put air-travel arrangements on hold until further notice.
The Dragons were banking on holding home games to bring in much-needed revenue following huge travel costs incurred by the club since Covid-19 disrupted the season. Officials have admitted it would be “a disaster” if home games did not go ahead.
Catalans have seven home Super League games lined up, beginning with Leeds on September 7th, and current government guidelines allow for an attendance of 5,000 spectators under strict virus-control measures.
That figure would have just accommodated Catalans’ sponsors and season-ticket holders, meaning away supporters would be unable to attend.
However, the Dragons are in negotiations with civic leaders in Perpignan in an attempt to increase their safe capacity.
Local rugby union side USAP have successfully agreed a limit of 8,000 supporters at the nearby Stade Aimé Giral for a pre-season game and it seems a similar figure will be allowed at the Brutus, putting 3,000 unexpected tickets up for sale.
The Dragons spokesman said: “We are in constant negotiations, but it looks likely that some away supporters will be allowed to attend.”
He added: “Quarantine is currently in place in the UK, but things are changing on a daily basis. Travel exemptions are still being sought and we are still in talks with the local authorities, but we hope to have more than 5,000 at our games.
“Our loyal sponsors and season-ticket holders have to come first, but there should be more tickets available soon.”
The Dragons official urged UK supporters not to contact the club until arrangements are finalised, adding: “Please keep in touch with our official website for further details.”
Catalans have faced huge financial challenges to complete the 2020 season, including the hiring of a private jet to fly to England for the opening five fixtures since the restart.
The club says it is “financially vital” that the homes games take place and officials are working closely with Super League and the RFL on a daily basis to ensure legal and bio-security measures are upheld.
The Dragons spokesman added: “In terms of organisation, our stadium will be a safe place for the players, staff and fans and everybody involved in the match-day experience. We are working hard and focusing on making things right, allowing everybody to come to the stadium in a safe environment.
“All that needs to be agreed now is the exemption. We have contacted government officials and we await their response.”
A decision by French authorities is expected on Tuesday.
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