Sporting entities are divided over how proactive they should be encouraging the take-up of vaccinations, and whose decision it will be whether or not to ban unvaccinated fans from stadiums.
- Major sporting events are set to be held this summer as Australian states approach target vaccination thresholds
- ‘Vaccination passports’ have been used overseas
- Those within sport are split over how proactive they should be when it comes to vaccination
The Sydney Roosters declared today they wanted to be the first club to ban unvaccinated fans next season.
But athletes have reportedly pushed back against being involved in a pro-vaccination campaign for the NRL.
Resolving issues around vaccinations and fans is likely to happen within the summer codes prior to next season’s NRL.
The NBL has delayed its start date to November in the hope it can avoid empty stadiums.
NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said last week the delay reflected the current climate.
“Based on expert advice and based on our own experiences from last season, delaying a month gives us more flexibility and, most importantly, it provides fans a much better chance of attending more games in Australia and New Zealand as the number of people vaccinated against COVID increases towards the end of the year.”
As an indoor spectacle, the NBL faces a more difficult path back to full arenas this summer compared with cricket and football.
Cricket Australia has been marketing its summer calendar heavily, which includes a women’s series against India starting in September and the men’s Ashes against England from December.
But marquee events including the MCG and SCG tests are scheduled for cities currently in lockdown.
A spokesperson said Cricket Australia “continues to support government, venue partners and volunteers to ensure we create a safe environment for our fans and participants”.
“It’s the most important thing we can do protect ourselves, our families and our communities from COVID-19.”
Each venue in the A-League is owned by state authorities, but discussions between the Australian Professional Leagues, the body in charge, and states are only preliminary 11 weeks out from the season.
Despite the Roosters’ stance, many within sport argue that it should be federal or state governments who are responsible for deciding whether to lock out unvaccinated fans and developing the method for doing so.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has demanded states relieve restrictions when vaccination rates top 70 and 80 per cent of the eligible population.
He has also flagged those with jabs would have greater freedom.
“If you get vaccinated, there will be special rules that’ll apply to you,” he said in late July.
In early August, Morrison said it would be up to the states if they wanted to implement restrictions on stadium entry.
“If venues and things like this want to do that, my advice is then they will need the backing of state public health orders to achieve that, to make those sort of things mandatory.”
Venues NSW chairman Tony Shepherd has said that once everyone had had a chance to be vaccinated, restrictions would be applied to stadiums.
“However, it’s then a case of, if you can’t be vaccinated, you can’t come,” he said.
“If you choose not to have the jab that is your civil right in a free country, but the Delta strain is extremely transmissible and we need to do something to reopen our stadiums.”
The Roosters will play out of a new Venues NSW stadium at Moore Park next year and want to push vaccinations as much as they can.
“We want members and fans to feel safe about coming to the football and knowing the people they are sitting next to have been fully vaccinated,” chairman Nick Politis told the Daily Telegraph today.
“It might upset a minority of supporters but it’s the only way forward.
“We think all NRL clubs need to take a responsible stand on this like they are doing overseas.”
Tension in campaigns
The Roosters also released a video three weeks ago urging people to get the jab.
Over the weekend, the NRL released a more expansive campaign encouraging Australians to get vaccinated. Comments on the Facebook post were closed.
However a report in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday revealed players at some clubs were reluctant to take part, citing fear of a potential backlash.
The video posted to Facebook by the Roosters three weeks ago received positive feedback in a majority of comments, but a minority voiced opposition.
The Australian soccer players’ union, Professional Footballers Australia, is currently providing education seminars for players with the APL’s chief medical officer.
“Our position on the vaccine is that we will continue to be guided by science and advice from medical experts,” a spokesperson said.
“For any player that has an underlying medical condition we are encouraging them to seek specific medical advice.”
Overseas, so-called vaccine passports have been used at Wembley for the Euro 2020 final in June and in the American basketball and baseball leagues.
A report by Public Health England last week found that 3,404 cases of COVID-19 were likely to have been caught at the Euro 2020 final marred by a security breach involving thousands of ticketless fans.
The research concluded that mass participation events could be conducted safely, but caution must still be taken around attendees being in close proximity for extended periods of time, high-density pinch points at venues, travelling to and from events and mixing indoors.