One thousand supporters will be allowed to attend two more Premiership rugby matches later this month.
The West Country derby between Bath and Gloucester on September 22 and Bristol Bears’ meeting with Leicester Tigers have both been named as part of a series of test events approved by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
This follows Harlequins hosting 3,500 spectators on September 5 for their match against Bath Rugby. As with that game, and Gloucester’s loss to Harlequins on Monday night at Kingsholm, social-distancing measures will be in place. Home season ticket-holders will make up the permitted capacity.
Darren Childs, chief executive of Premiership Rugby, saluted some “magnificent” work behind the scenes.
“We are delighted that following the success of the first two ‘pilot’ matches at the Twickenham Stoop and Kingsholm, another two Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches have been given the green light from the government,” Childs said.
“This is testament to the magnificent job done by the teams at both Harlequins and Gloucester Rugby. “We saw in those matches how important it is for spectators to be present at live sport and we value the trust that the government have placed in us for additional pilot games.
“The health and safety of everyone involved in Premiership Rugby is our only priority as we bring the sport back from lockdown and that was evident at Kingsholm and the Twickenham Stoop. We are pleased to be able to look to build on that success.”
Bath chief executive Tarquin McDonald declared his club “privileged to be playing a significant role in the path towards returning spectators to grounds across the country” and director of rugby Stuart Hooper suggested that a local derby was a fitting occasion to reintroduce supporters.
"Since rugby’s restart, we have played seven fixtures, six of which have been behind closed doors,” he said. “In every single game, particularly at The Rec, we have felt the absence of our supporters.
"As a group, we have spent a lot of time creating energy in the awareness there weren’t going to be crowds. There are times when you expect to hear the crowd roar, and it’s not there. It will be great to have supporters back, and it’s hugely exciting to be playing in front of a small crowd at The Rec.
"It is particularly special that our supporters will be back for a local derby against Gloucester.”