BT Murrayfield’s historic British and Irish Lions game against Japan next month could have a crowd of 16,500, the largest in Scotland since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
The Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup match, the first time the Lions have played in Scotland, is the curtain raiser to the tour to South Africa.
Following consultation with the Scottish Government and the application of physical distancing criteria, it has been agreed a crowd just short of a quarter of the stadium’s capacity will be permitted.
It will be the first time spectators have been permitted in Murrayfield since a short-lived pilot of 1,000 spectators last September. It’s the first crowd for an international match there since the 2020 Six Nations game against France.
Other public health agencies, emergency services and transport providers are collaborating to stage the landmark event.
‘A flagship event of international significance’
The Scottish Government’s National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch, said the criteria arrived at for this game would be the same as football’s Euros to be played at Hampden this summer.
“As a flagship event of international significance, this match has been carefully considered by the Scottish Government,” he said.
“The stadium capacity has been agreed, following public health advice, in principle by Ministers. It will be kept under review. All partners will continue to monitor the status of the pandemic in the run up to the match to ensure fans can attend safely.
“This is the same process used to set the capacity for the Euros at Hampden and for other internationally significant events this summer.
“While all those in the stadium should of course enjoy the game, they should do so safely – the virus is still out there. Free, fast and regular testing for people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms is available to everyone in Scotland. Please take up that offer and do not attend if the result is positive or you have any symptoms whatsoever.
“Stick to your allocated arrival and departure time. Follow physical distancing rules and wear a mask at all times, other than when eating or drinking.
“By following these rules, you will help us beat this virus and ensure many more people can enjoy the thrill of live events in future.”
‘An important first step to normality’
Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson said this was “an important first step to a return to normality.”
“We have positive working relationship we have developed with both Scottish Government and key local partners. We’re confident we will offer a safe environment for every supporter,” he said.
“We look forward to playing our part in hosting this unique sporting occasion and welcoming rugby fans back to Edinburgh.
“I’d like to thank everyone at Scottish Rugby who has contributed to enabling a live crowd to enjoy this match at BT Murrayfield. I have no doubt it will be a special day for all involved.”
‘It will be brilliant to see a passionate crowd’
“We’re absolutely delighted to be able to confirm today’s news,” said Ben Calveley, Managing Director of The British & Irish Lions.
“It will be brilliant to see a passionate crowd back at Murrayfield. This promises to be a superb game of rugby before we embark on the Tour to South Africa.
“It will give the entire touring party an enormous boost to play this fixture in front of Lions fans.
“We are very grateful to the Scottish Government for its commitment and support to ensure we have a live audience.”
The game against the 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-finalists will be shown live and exclusively on Channel 4.
Owing to the reduced capacity, a number of existing ticketholders will not be permitted to attend and will be refunded.
Tickets will be allocated in line with government advice and the ticketing terms and conditions. All ticket holders will hear by Friday May 28 if they have been successful in gaining access to the event.