More than 30,000 fans will not be able to attend the British & Irish Lions’ match in Edinburgh against Japan in June, as the game will only now host 16,500 due to Covid regulations.
An initial ticket ballot of 50,000 tickets sold out when they were made available in November – but now 33,500 will be cancelled and refunded after consultation with the Scottish Government, who have said social-distancing measures mean less than a third of the capacity can attend.
It will represent another cruel financial blow to the Lions and Scottish Rugby Union; the tourists are likely to make a loss this summer.
Murrayfield will not host a capacity British & Irish Lions game against Japan this summer
Nevertheless this crowd – if it stays at this level until kick-off on June 26 – will still be the first seen at Murrayfield since March 2020.
‘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 for what promises to be a superb game of rugby before we embark on the Tour to South Africa.
‘I am sure it will give the entire touring party an enormous boost to play this fixture in front of Lions fans.
Warren Gatland was hoping to have his side play a warm-up game in front of a full house
‘We are very grateful to the Scottish Government for its commitment and support to ensure this fixture would be seen by a live audience.’
Many fans with tickets will now be left disappointed, and will be contacted by May 28 to advise if their seat is still available.
Those who bought tickets last will see theirs cancelled first, as per the terms and conditions, which will see those sold via the ‘general sale’ voided, then in ‘presale groups’ four to one until 16,500 lucky fans are left.
With the tour games and Tests in South Africa now to be played in front of empty stands, this will still be the biggest crowd to watch the 2021 Lions live.
Alun Wyn Jones and Co will have to settle for just 16,500 fans watching against Japan
The Scottish Government’s National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch said: ‘As a flagship event of international significance, this match has been carefully considered by the Scottish Government.
‘The stadium capacity has been agreed, following public health advice, in principle by Ministers but will be kept under review, with all partners continuing 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 during the summer.’
The Covid road-map for Scotland is targeting a return to normality by late June and if all goes well, level zero will be introduced on June 28, just two days after the game.
That said, there will still be limits on attendances to events, both indoor and outdoor.