ALL sporting events in Wales will be held behind closed doors from Boxing Day due to the surge in coronavirus cases, the Welsh government has announced.
Economy Minister Vaughan Gething announced the new measures for indoor and outdoor sporting events in a bid to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.
Gething said: “Sporting events over the Christmas period are one of the big highlights of the year. Unfortunately, the new Omicron variant is a significant development in the pandemic and could cause a large number of infections.
“We need to do everything we can to protect people’s health and control the spread of this awful virus.
“Throughout the pandemic we have followed scientific and public health advice to keep people safe. 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.”
It comes as Nicola Sturgeon said she could not “give straightforward advice” on whether to advise the cancellation of large events like football matches without assurance that people could be compensated with, for example, financial mechanisms in place earlier in the pandemic.
Cardiff’s United Rugby Championship clash with Scarlets and Wrexham’s National League fixture against Solihull – both scheduled for December 26 – will be the first affected by Wales’ new ruling.
And the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow will also have to be run behind closed doors despite advance ticket sales in excess of 6,000.
Cardiff City’s Championship clash against Coventry has already been postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak in the Bluebirds’ camp, as has the United Rugby Championship game between the Ospreys and the Dragons.
The first EFL fixture due to be affected is Swansea’s Championship clash with Luton, which is currently scheduled for December 29.
Cardiff City said in a statement: “Cardiff City Football Club acknowledges the instruction from the Welsh government for sporting events in Wales to be played behind closed doors for a limited period of time in an effort to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
“Following the postponement of our Boxing Day fixture with Coventry City on Monday, this is set to most immediately impact our FA Cup third round tie with Preston North End on January 9th.”
Gething confirmed that a £3million Spectator Sports Fund will be available to support those clubs affected by the loss of spectator revenue.
Chepstow Racecourse chief executive Phil Bell anticipated the move last week, when he told BBC Wales: “We’ve seen this coming in recent days.
“It would be damaging – we’ve currently sold 6,000 tickets – an average price £35 — so people can do the maths. Around 800 people have booked hospitality packages at around £80 to £120 – there are significant amounts of revenue at stake here.”