There’s no doubt this weekend is one Raiders and Brumbies fans weren’t sure would arrive again in 2020.
The Raiders and Brumbies themselves weren’t sure the day would arrive again, to be fair.
But the gates of Canberra Stadium will open again this weekend, with the Canberra Raiders facing St George Illawarra in Round 8 of the NRL tonight, and the Brumbies kicking off their campaign in the new Super Rugby competition on Saturday night, taking on the Melbourne Rebels.
Both sides were given the green light to play at home by ACT Health a few weeks ago, but with limited crowds.
And given this will be the biggest single gathering of people in in the ACT since coronavirus restrictions began to lift, there is bit to get your head around before you head to the footy.
How limited will the crowds be either night?
Including players, officials, media, security, stadium staff, corporate sponsors and fans, there will be no more than 2,000 people in attendance on either night.
It’s better than a stadium full of cardboard cut-outs, but it’s also indicative of how this pilot scheme will work.
But the Raiders have already said this week that being booed by even just 500 Parramatta fans in Sydney last weekend fired them up, so they can’t wait to have three times as many people cheering them on this weekend instead.
Does that mean it could be a bigger crowd next weekend?
The Raiders will play in front of a home crowd again next Saturday night, hosting the Melbourne Storm.
The hope is that if everything goes to plan this first weekend back, then the cap on attendance could be lifted to a new guideline of 25 per cent of capacity.
For Canberra Stadium and its capacity of around 25,000, this new guideline could allow upwards of 6,250 into the ground next Saturday night.
And the authorities want this to happen.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman told the ABC this week, “If it all goes well this weekend, and if all the protocols are followed, I can’t see why it wouldn’t increase for next weekend.”
So things are going to be look a bit different this weekend?
Yes, they will.
For one thing, the majority of the crowd will be seated on the eastern side of the ground — the Gregan-Larkham Stand side — with some fans also situated in the northern and southern corners.
Everyone attending has had their name and contact details added to a register, so that if in the worst-case scenario a fresh virus outbreak is traced back to the stadium, anyone who was there can be contacted accordingly.
You will be assigned to one seat, and asked to sit in that seat. And there will be two vacant seats between you and the people either side of you.
You mean I can‘t sit next to family members?
You can and will be assigned seats together, but there will still be two seats between you and your scarf-wielding mum on one side, and another two between you and your annoying brother who calls Jarrod Croker ‘Jason’ just to get a bite.
The exception is children under the age of 12, or people with special needs: they will be permitted to sit in the seat directly next to their parent or primary care-giver.
And you may be asked to verify your identity against your ticket and allocated seat.
So what can‘t I bring into the stadium?
It’s dot point time.
Canberra Stadium said the following things should not be brought into the ground:
- any type of bag including a handbag, camera bag, lunchbox, or plastic bags (if you do bring a bag in, it has to be checked, and that’s not easy to do in an age of social distancing)
- jackets or items of clothing need to be worn into the stadium, not carried
- thermoses or drink bottles
- any signage, flags, posters, or musical instrument without prior approval
- footballs, or any other kind of ball
What can I bring in then?
This weekend’s security is all about being able to get people in through the gates and the security checks quickly, easily, and most importantly safely.
So, if what you need can be easily checked as you come through the gates, these items are allowed in:
- whatever you can carry in your hand or pockets that is not on the list above (you might be asked to place any items brought into the venue on an inspection table as you enter)
- small purses without a shoulder strap are fine
- one sealed, non-alcoholic beverage in a plastic bottle and up to 600mL in size is also allowed
- if you have dietary requirements, you can bring individual items in clear or sealed packaging — sandwiches, packets of chips or muesli bars are acceptable, pizza or a hot cup of noodles are not
- fans attending with a baby may bring a large size, clear zip-lock bag into the stadium containing essentials like nappies, wipes, and formula
- a stroller is also be permitted in line with the stadium’s standard conditions, but don’t carry any additional items in the stroller
- you can bring one blanket, but you may be asked to hold it up and unfold it by security
- one camera with a lens less than 300mm in length is permitted (but it must not be in a bag)
In addition, all corporate guests must sign a registration sheet with their name and contact phone number when entering the corporate area.
Will I be able to get food and drinks inside the ground?
Food and beverage outlets will operate with limited menus on the northern and southern ends, and the eastern side kiosks.
But the advice is to go to the outlets when you first get inside the stadium, and then head straight for your seats to consume your food and drink.
And you will be asked to remain in your seat throughout the game.
What else do I need to know?
Parking is free. And because there will be no more than 2,000 people there, you may park the closest you’ve parked at the stadium in years!
Check your ticket and make sure you enter through the designated gate. Check whether you need to enter through the east or west gate.
And get there a little earlier than normal, because there may be delays as people go through all the checks.
Don’t arrive five minutes before kick-off. And remember, the people doing the checks aren’t trying to hold you up, they’re just doing the job asked of them as carefully as is needed.
Finally, enjoy the game! Scream your heart out and let the team know you’re behind them.
And hopefully, if everything does go well, more of us can get out to the footy next time.