As Wales has now finally moved in Alert Level Zero, it it great to see our stadiums and local sports club full of fans again, as the final legal limits on the number of people at events has been lifted.
While I am disappointed with the Welsh Government that this point could not be reached sooner, I would like to praise the hard work and patience of all those who have worked to make clubs safe and able to welcome back fans, including our brilliant local club - Flint Town United FC.
As the vaccination rate in Wales continues to rise, I hope the return of fans to spectator sports will remain, allowing clubs to thrive, communities to come together and fans to get back and support their local teams again.
While the Welsh Government has consistently let Welsh sports down over the pandemic, including by not holding any test events in North Wales, it is brilliant to see a return of fans to indoor sports and events as Wales moves into Alert Level One. From 17th July, up to 1,000 seated and up to 200 standing spectators can attend organised indoor events.
This will be a huge relief to clubs across Wales, especially for many of the smaller clubs who are dependent on the revenue that fans bring to games and events.
This has been a long campaign, but one I have been proud to run as I know the importance of local clubs to our communities here in Delyn. I hope the Welsh Government maintains its commitment to move Wales to Alert Level Zero in August, where the final restrictions on the number of people at events will be removed.
Despite the lack of clarity provided by the Welsh Government on this matter, I am pleased to see that fans will be able to finally return to outdoor sports and stadiums from the 7th June.
From 7th June, larger outdoor organised events such as footballs matches can go ahead for up to 4,000 people standing up and 10,000 people seated.
This is great news for our local clubs and will bring some joy after a very long and difficult year.
As the vaccination programme continues at speed, I hope the Welsh Government will further look to safely ease restrictions and allow a return of fans in indoor sports events.
Following the news that the UK Government is allowing a partial return of fans in England, I wrote to the Welsh Government again on this matter, asking for them to set out a roadmap for a return of fans in Wales. A clear roadmap would provide much needed clarity and support to clubs who are already struggling and would give them the best chance of succeeding.
With the Covid vaccination programme progressing well, and with Wales having the lowest Covid rates of the UK nations, it seems both the right and the safest time for a return of fans to sports. Moreover, as the sports industry is a key sector in Wales, on both a local and national level, it is disappointing that fans in Wales will miss out on this step towards normality, while their fellow fans over the border in England can return from May.
Despite the clear need for a roadmap to indicate a return of fans, as has been set out for the retail and hospitality industries, the response I received from the Welsh Government was poor. While I welcome the news about pilot events resuming, their response completely ignored the points made in my letter and did not reference a roadmap for a return of fans at all.
Despite the Welsh Government’s failings in the industry, I will continue to campaign on this issue to ensure we see a safe return of fans to sport.
You can read a copy of my letter and the Welsh Government’s response below.
As we come towards the end of the year, I thought it would beneficial to provide an update on the progress of this campaign and my plans for the New Year.
Following my letter to the Welsh Government on 13th October, I received a response from the Welsh Deputy Minister for Culture and Tourism on 28th October - which I have attached below. While the response pointed out the various financial support available for sports clubs and the reasoning behind not continuing with test events, I felt it was a rather disappointing reply which unfortunately did not recognise the real danger smaller local clubs are in without a return of fans.
I also had the opportunity to raise this issue to the Secretary of State for Wales during Welsh Questions (see video above) and I was glad to have his support on this matter. I will continue to raise the profile and awareness of this issue both locally and at a national level.
More recently, I was glad to see in December that the UK Government updated its guidance and supported a return of spectators to sports competition. In Tier 1 regions, outdoor venues can have up to 4000 spectators or 50% venue capacity (whichever is lowest) return, and in Tier 2 regions, outdoor venues can see a return of 2000 spectators or 50% venue capacity. This is great news for local sports clubs in England and will give them a much needed financial boost.
I sincerely hope the Welsh Government will look to follow the UK Government example and allow a partial return of spectators to areas where there are lower rates of transmission, such as in North Wales. As we head into 2021, I will continue to raise this issue and push the Welsh Government to review their guidance and set out a roadmap for the return of spectators to sports and events in Wales - or I worry we risk losing many of clubs which are so important to our communities.