Welsh clubs on Tuesday said the decision to ban crowds from sporting events in the country to help control the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus would have a “devastating” financial impact.
All events – indoors and outdoors – must be held behind closed doors from December 26 under new Welsh government rules.
Economy minister Vaughan Gething, who announced the measures, said a £3 million ($4 million) fund would will be available to support clubs and venues affected by the loss of revenue.
“Throughout the pandemic we have followed scientific and public health advice to keep people safe,” he said in a statement.
“The advice is clear—we need to act now in response to the threat of Omicron. We are giving people as much notice of these decisions as we can.
“Crowds will come back as soon as possible. We want everyone to be here to enjoy their favourite sports.”
Cardiff’s United Rugby Championship (URC) clash with Scarlets and Wrexham’s National League football match against Solihull — both scheduled for December 26 — will be the first fixtures affected by the ruling.
The Welsh Grand National at Chepstow, which takes place the following day, will also have to be run behind closed doors despite advance ticket sales of more than 6,000.
The first English Football League (EFL) match due to be affected is Swansea’s Championship clash with Luton, which is currently scheduled for December 29.
Cardiff City chief executive Mehmet Dalman, whose club also play in the second tier of the English game, said the move would hit them hard.
“It’s a major blow from all aspects, but we have to put the safety of our fans, players and everyone first,” he told Talksport radio.
Welsh rugby teams will also suffer financially.
Scarlets executive chairman Simon Muderack said he was “bitterly disappointed” to lose the fans.
“After the past few weeks we were all looking to bring some festive derby cheer into people’s lives,” he tweeted.
“Clearly people’s safety is paramount. However, the commercial impacts to all of us as clubs is catastrophic without significant further support.”
Dragons chairman David Buttress, whose team also plays in the URC, said it was “devastating for professional rugby and sport”.
“We have done everything to support, comply and drive/support Covid community initiatives,” he tweeted. “I may not be thanked for being frank, but this is horrendous news for us. This is brutal news.”
The new regulations are Welsh government measures only and so do not apply to sporting events in England and Scotland, where crowds are still permitted.