WARRINGTON Wolves have outlined the steps they are taking to ensure the safe return of spectators to The Halliwell Jones Stadium.

In a letter to Warrington Borough Council, chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick has stressed sport "cannot be left behind" as the country grapples with an increase in coronavirus cases.

The government had stated limited crowds could return to professional sporting fixtures from October 1 with pilots being held before then, including four Super League fixtures on September 30 being watched by crowds of 1,000 people.

However, due to the recent increase in infection rates, that date has been put under review.

In his letter, Fitzpatrick estimates rugby league as a whole is losing around £2million per week amid the pandemic and says "a way forward" needs to be seen in terms of generating revenue from tickets during the 2020 season.

Warrington Guardian:

Warrington Wolves chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick, right. Picture by Mike Boden

Read Karl Fitzpatrick's full letter to WBC chief executive Steven Broomhead below:

Dear Steven,

As we are all aware, the government had previously earmarked 1st October as the target date for the widespread reopening of major sporting fixtures, and Rugby League fully respects that government and health officials must conduct a review at this time.

In conjunction with your review, I am writing to share some of the complex and innovative work that Warrington Wolves has undertaken to prepare for socially distanced crowds, and to ask for your continued support in highlighting the expertise of the sports sector in managing events, as well as raise awareness of the risks to jobs and investment at the Club and in the local community from the inability to drive ticket revenues.

Rugby League shares the view with football, rugby union and cricket that the ultimate objective should be for sports, working with the relevant public bodies, to bring stadiums back to first limited crowds and then work towards full and safe capacities, with a regulatory system that adapts to the different capabilities of different venues, responds to evidence and is flexible to what will inevitably be changing circumstances.

  • The sport sector in the UK contributes over £16bn to the UK economy, employing more than 600,000 people
  • Sport needs to drive its income and protect jobs through ticket sales and associated spend, and minimise the massive losses from this to date, and projected losses, and the risks to commercial and sponsorship arrangements
  • The financial losses to Rugby League are considerable, the impact on whole game revenues in Rugby League is up to £2m a week
  • Jobs in sport, in associated businesses, and in our local communities are at risk; sport simply cannot be left behind
  • We must be able to see a way forward to generating some revenues this season through tickets and ancillary spend
  • Sports including Rugby League are expert in managing numbers of fans entering stadia, enjoying sport in the fresh air, and exiting safely
  • The work to deliver the safe and managed return of spectators to sports stadia benefits from the physical environment that sports stadia offer, especially the balance of outdoor versus indoor.

The government has drawn a distinction between indoor and outdoor spaces

throughout the staged guidance for sport.

Behind closed doors event management has been exemplary. We have completed our detailed planning with the local Safety Advisory Group partners and we are ready.

Some examples of the mitigations that the Club is making for 1st October include;

Playing an active and responsible role in supporting government and the NHS with contact tracing – we can make it a requirement of entry for spectators that they enable contact tracing on their smartphones etc. The sport sector, if required by government/NHS/PHE, can utilise handheld thermal scanners.

Adapting customer processes and communications to support self-declaration – the declaration includes a health questionnaire to prompt individuals in high risk categories to think carefully about attending matches.

Promote digital-only and print-at-home ticketing where possible – reducing the need for the use or distribution of physical tickets, and the amount of scanning/handling of tickets for entry on matchday.

Use of timed entry – controlling the flow of spectators into the stadium and reducing the associated risks of most supporters arriving at the same time.

Model seating allocation – to accommodate individuals and family or bubble groups to facilitate appropriate social distancing efficiently and safely.

Widening the aisles – ensuring seats at the end of each block row would be vacant to provide greater distance between people as they move in and out of seating

Provide ongoing customer communications and education – using direct to fan communications as well as the Clubs’ own channels, which have been important platforms for public health messages throughout this period.

Build on the behind closed doors sport experience regarding staffing protocols and increased hygiene measures – for example, face masks; all staff and visitors will be required to wear face masks when in circulation within the stadium, with mask-wearing encouraged in seating areas. Also hand sanitising; stations located throughout the stadium and on the approach to entry, including in toilet blocks.

Building on event management experience regarding food and beverage – for example, outdoors options, reducing pressures on concourses, concourse staff in food and beverage roles to adopt and exceed the PPE and cleaning requirements in other settings, promotion of cashless payments where possible.

Travel plans to stadia - excellent travel planning is a standard practice by event organisers to reduce any congestion but Rugby League matches differ from some other sports, with greater instances of familial travel in the same car or walking to the ground, which places far less demand on the public transport network. Clubs are also developing more options for walking and bicycle parking. We have strategies in place to ensure that congregating behaviours are avoided.

Thank you for taking the time to read of our continual work and progress towards ensuring the safety of everyone who comes to our stadium, and for your continued support of the Club.