June 7, 2020 / 1:25 PM / in a month

RFU pushing for 40,000 fans to attend November internationals

FILE PHOTO: Winter Olympics - Team GB Homecoming - Heathrow Airport, London, Britain - February 26, 2018 Bill Sweeney (CEO, BOA) during the press conference Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

(Reuters) - The Rugby Football Union (RFU) is seeking clarity on whether the physical distancing rule can be reduced from two metres to one so they can admit 40,000 fans into Twickenham Stadium for the November internationals, chief executive Bill Sweeney said.

Elite sport in England was given the green light to return this month but without spectators in attendance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the RFU believes fans will be allowed to attend matches by November.

England are scheduled to host New Zealand’s All Blacks, Argentina, Tonga and Australia in November at Twickenham Stadium, which has a capacity of 82,000.

“If you are using two metres, you are talking about a four-metre distanced safe space. With one, it is one metre all round, which has the effect of increasing capacity fourfold,” Sweeney was quoted as saying by the Guardian.

“If you use two metres in an 80,000-seater stadium and factor in traffic flow, such as someone wanting to use the toilet without going past someone and touching them, it reduces your capacity to between 9,000 and 9,500.

“I was surprised, not thinking it would be that low. With one metre, which is the World Health Organization’s guidance, you get close to 40,000, and we would like it to come down to that by the autumn.”

Sweeney said the RFU stands to lose around three million pounds per game under the two-metre guidelines but will not increase capacity unless they receive government approval.

“We would not increase the stadium capacity at the risk of safety nor do anything contrary to government guidelines,” Sweeney added.

“But we want clarity on whether the two-metre rule is absolutely essential or is one metre possible.”

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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