V’landys reveals next NRL mission: get crowds back by July
WITH the NRL's highly anticipated return now just days away, ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys has revealed his next huge mission: To get paying members back at games by July 1, and sponsors even sooner.
V'landys made the stunning admission to The Daily Telegraph that will come as a massive shot in the arm to footy-starved fans.
While clubs have copped some backlash for asking members to keep up their financial support through the COVID-19 shutdown, V'landys said now he wanted to reward them for their loyalty.
Footy is back! Catch every minute of every match on KAYO SPORTS. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
Asked if he had a specific date in mind when he thinks crowds will return, V'landys didn't hesitate: "I am going to aim for July 1 to see what we can do.
"We want the sponsors in there as quickly as possible.
"You are allowed so many people so we will start looking at that with the biosecurity measures in the coming weeks.
"And I am not saying capacity crowds. I have to stress capped crowds. That is one way you can reward the members that have stuck firm."
While V'landys has been questioned and even ridiculed for his dogged determination to get the game back up and running, he said he always had a plan to open the game back up to the fans.
"There was a lot of things in my head when I went with the 20 rounds (schedule)," he continued.
"One was to make the competition credible. Two to go as late as possible into October so we can get a grand final with a crowd and then State of Origin with a crowd. That was always in my head.
"And touch wood and thank God so far I have predicted accurately. I said we'd be able to stay in Queensland. I said we'd stay in Victoria. I said we wouldn't need bubbles.
"So everything we have said has come to fruition.
"The last puzzle now is the crowds."
Asked about how many members would be allowed to attend games, V'landys added: "It depends on the ground and how far you can distance them.
"In ANZ you might be able to get 20,000 with social distancing, whereas somewhere like Kogarah you might get 5000. I am only guessing these figures, but it is absolutely on the radar. That is the next challenge.
"But I want to reward the members of the clubs. That is who I want to reward. As I have said many times, people who give me loyalty I give it back in spades.
"Those members who have stayed loyal I will be rewarding."
Under the revised draw round eight starts on July 2 and the NRL already has venues locked in until the end of round nine.
So obviously the NRL will still have to work the details on how this can happen fairly given most clubs will have more members than potential available tickets.
For instance at a club like South Sydney with 28,000-plus members they might have to take it in turns to attend the home games initially, or the NRL might split the fans from both rival clubs.
But what V'landys has proven previously is that he will move mountains to make the seemingly impossible possible as he did with getting the NRL back so early, so members have every reason to trust his intentions now are genuine.
V'landys added: "I have to be careful to say they are capped (crowds) and with social distancing. But once pubs and clubs are in full swing there is no reason why we can't.
"Again, we are going to look at the statistics. But if between now and the end of June the infection rate stays where it is, well, I can't see any reason why not."