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SRU hopeful fans could return in time for autumn internationals

SRU hopeful fans could return in time for autumn internationals
© Reuters
The number of fans could range from 10,000 to 30,000 depending on social-distancing guidelines.

Scottish Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson is hopeful crowds will gather at BT Murrayfield to watch autumn internationals after a date was set for a return to training.

Scotland's professional players can train individually on June 22, provided the country moves into the second phase of the easing of lockdown restrictions before then.

Further discussions with the Scottish Government have given the SRU some encouragement that some level of crowds will be allowed for Scotland games, whoever they might be against.

The SRU estimates little more than 10,000 would be allowed into Murrayfield under two-metre physical distancing rules but a relaxation could allow about 30,000 in.

Mark Dodson is optimistic about crowds
Mark Dodson is optimistic about crowds (PA)

Dodson admitted matches against the other home nations could be the likeliest scenario amid ongoing doubt over whether New Zealand, Argentina and Japan will visit Edinburgh in November.

Dodson said: "The issue around the autumn Tests is crucial to us. The reason everyone is talking so much about social distancing from two metres to 1.5m to 1m to zero is that it has a significant impact on how many tickets we can sell, how many people can come through the door and enjoy whatever Test schedule we can put forward.

"From where we stand at the moment, our presumption is that those Tests will go ahead behind closed doors until we are told different from Government.

"We're working really closely with the Scottish Government – I'm talking to them all the time about what the parameters are for live sport. We are hopeful that we'll be able to play with crowds for the autumn schedule but we're not convinced and we've budgeted for the worst-case scenario."

Scotland are due to face Japan in November
Scotland are due to face Japan in November (PA)

Dodson added: "You've got a situation where everyone is at different points in the proposals. Inter-hemisphere rugby in the autumn is by no means a certainty.

"What we've got to find out is how the pandemic moves and as soon as we get clarity around that, it will give us certainty around what we can and can't do, but we're working on a number of scenarios.

"The more we can stick to the original schedule, the better. We're modelling all kinds of scenarios with our Six Nations colleagues to make sure can put some kind of Autumn Tests on. The problem with the lack of certainty is that you have to plan several iterations and take those to broadcasters to see if they are attractive.

"We're looking at what's easiest to develop and that may mean playing against the home nations given their proximity and the fact you would hopefully get more certainty around playing those games.

"It's under consideration – it wouldn't be a Six Nations but it would be a competition with the home nations and potentially Six Nations countries."

Scotland are set to face Wales in Cardiff
Scotland are set to face Wales in Cardiff (PA)

Scotland's final Guinness Six Nations clash in Wales was postponed with 24 hours' notice and there could be another game against Wales on top of the rearranged contest later this year.

"I'm very hopeful that we will be able to finish this year's Six Nations in the autumn," Dodson said. "It's important to everyone, and to the tournament itself."

Dodson admits the prospect of continuing restrictions next year would be a serious concern.

"We're very hopeful we can have crowds at the Six Nations and have a more normal Six Nations because the idea of having it behind closed doors, or not at all, then we're in a different world and a different level of fragility in terms of the finances," he said.

"We told you that takes us into the sphere of £40million losses and that's a different scenario."

With the new training schedule confirmed, the SRU is hopeful that rugby can return in late August or soon afterwards.

Glasgow and Edinburgh players will train at Murrayfield and could face each other there in the first game back.

"We've got to try and look at the way the PRO14 restarts," Dodson said. "The most obvious one is having two teams in the same country playing in a safe environment."


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