The Australian Medical Association has lashed out at the NRL’s ambition to have crowds back from July, labelling it “absurd” and “dangerous”.
The NRL has outlined its hopes to have capped crowds back at NRL matches, with numbers dependent on the stadium size.
Both the NSW and Queensland governments have said they are open to working with league on a planned return, even if it at this stage appears far off.
But Australia’s chief association for doctors and medical practitioners said any move to have crowds back at suburban grounds was a “huge” risk to public health amid the coronavirus.
“Put bluntly, this absurd and dangerous idea belongs in the sin bin,” AMA president Tony Bartone said on Tuesday.
“The NRL should be satisfied that it has its competition back in action, but it is unfair and unwise to put the health of the game’s fans at risk.
“They must first monitor the health and safety of the players and officials who will be involved in the thick of the on-field action.
“Australians have done exceptionally well in flattening the COVID-19 curve, and we are not too far away from relaxing more restrictions.”
The AMA highlighted the slow return to sport in Europe without crowds and praised the AFL for its cautious approach to wait for expert medical advice.
However, the NRL has said it will act only on the instruction of government and expert advice and is planning to submit its proposal to authorities.
It would also implement strict biosecurity measures around any return to crowds.
The limited number of fans would be scanned by a thermal camera on the entry to grounds and would need to have the government’s COVID-Safe app downloaded.
Some matches would also be played in bigger venues, with Suncorp Stadium’s capacity far higher than that of a suburban ground.
Recent history has shown that ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys has been able to lead the charge out of the virus shutdown.
When the NRL announced a planned May 28 return in April, most labelled the idea overly ambitious.
In the time since V’landys has convinced the NSW, Queensland and Victoria state governments of a safe return, as infection numbers have continued to drop.
Neither NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian or Queensland counterpart Annastacia Palaszczuk appeared too open to the concept of stadium crowds on Monday.
But nor were they willing to write it off, with Ms Palaszczuk having previously been opposed to the game’s return before now backing it.
V’landys has claimed the idea is based on the suggestion that open-air spaces are safer than enclosed venues such as pubs and restaurants.
He has insisted any push for a return to capped crowds will depend on how Australia’s case numbers perform as the country begins to reopen amid the pandemic.