Thousands of NRL fans were stuck outside Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane this weekend after a mobile ticketing failure by Ticketek, leading to concerns over an unsafe COVID-19 environment.

The major malfunction on Friday evening left staff at the preliminary final between Melbourne Storm and Canberra Raiders unable to scan tickets and briefly delayed kick off.

According to reports, as many as 20,000 people were stuck waiting while the ticketing issue was fixed. However, after the failure could not be sorted out, the organisers reportedly opened the stadium gates, allowing fans in without checking tickets or following COVID-19 protocols.

Many people took to social media to voice their concerns following the event, with one fan stating: “If there is going to be a COVID-19 outbreak, it is going to happen at Suncorp Stadium tonight. Zero social distancing, zero direction from staff. Disgrace.”

After the game, Ticketek Australia tweeted an apology for the failure at the NRL contest. “Ticketek apologises to Storm and Raiders fans that were delayed getting into Suncorp Stadium tonight due to a technical issue. We also apologise to the NRL and Suncorp Stadium.”

The Storm beat the Raiders 30-10 in front of 37,112 fans at the 52,500-capacity venue.

Similarly, the Ticketek issues caused a delay at the AFL Aussie football preliminary finals on Friday at the Adelaide Oval.

The clash between Port Adelaide and Richmond reportedly welcomed 24,292 into the 53,500-capacity venue.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s other preliminary final between the Brisbane Lions and Geelong at the 42,000-capacity Gabba welcomed 29,121.

Bledisloe Cup

A bumper 46,000 fans were in attendance at Auckland’s Eden Park yesterday (Sunday) for the New Zealand vs Australia Bledisloe Cup match, but it was a different story for the final of the European Champions Cup on Saturday as the Exeter Chiefs’ thrilling win over Racing 92 was played at an empty Ashton Gate.

The All Blacks defeated Australia 27-7 in front of a near-capacity crowd at Eden Park, which was rebranded as Coopers Catch Park for the match.

The crowd of 46,049 made yesterday’s match one of the highest-attended sports events since the COVID-19 shutdown. Sports events are able to go ahead without any social distancing or restrictions in New Zealand, which has recorded just 25 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Yesterday’s fixture was the second of the four-match Bledisloe Cup series between New Zealand and Australia, and followed the 16-16 draw at Wellington’s Sky Stadium on October 11. Further matches are planned in Sydney and Melbourne.

Bundesliga

Due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in Germany this week, the Bundesliga has reduced its attendance figures, with only two clubs allowing more than 1,000 fans.

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim welcomed 6,030 spectators for its game against Borussia Dortmund, which sold out of its 11,500 available tickets in the last round of games.

Hertha BSC had more than 4,000 spectators for its game against Stuttgart at the 74,475-capacity Olympiastadion Berlin. In the previous weekend of games earlier this month, Stuttgart saw 9,500 fans at its game against Bayer Leverkusen.

Germany’s current system of allowing fans into sports events permits stadiums to be up to 20 per cent full if the number of COVID-19 cases in the locality has been below 35 per 100,000 people in the previous seven days.

The model only applies to home fans and gives local authorities the final say, with options either to reduce capacity below 20 per cent or to exclude all supporters.

In the last round of games, seven of the nine Bundesliga games had fans present, while this week only six had fans.

FSV Mainz only let in 250 spectators for its match against Bayer Leverkusen after Germany’s Rheinhessen region called off plans to allow in 6,000 spectators four days prior.

Similarly, Borussia Mönchengladbach only welcomed 300 fans for its clash against Wolfsburg, as did FC Koln for its match against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Denmark

The Danish Football Union (DBU) and the Superliga, the domestic top division, have launched a campaign designed to reopen a scheme that would allow fans to attend games in greater numbers.

The campaign, entitled ‘Superligaordningen – sikkert stadion under COVID-19’, is aimed to increase awareness among fans, football stakeholders and Danish authorities over how matches were staged under ‘Superligaordningen’, and convince those in power that a reopening of the scheme is both necessary and fully justifiable.

In June, it was announced that Danish Superliga matches could run at significantly increased capacity for the remainder of the season after authorities deemed three trial matches with 500 spectators per section a success.

Danish football had been one of the trailblazers in Europe in the safe return of fans to stadia, but the scheme was suspended by the government on September 18. Regulations currently in place until at least the end of October limit stadium attendances to 500 in total, effectively meaning that clubs are limited to 200-300 fans at games.

Superligaordningen was devised around the concept of housing fans in multiple sections within a stadium, limited to 500 apiece. Fans were made to sit in allocated seats, observing social distancing rules of one metre. Ticket purchasers were obliged to provide contact information to aid authorities with track and trace measures.

The new campaign aims to show how professional football matches can be held responsibly in the time of COVID-19. This is being conducted through a social media campaign, information provided to authorities and talks with fans.

Image: Amy Price / Twitter