By Owen Morgan
Welsh sport has welcomed First Minister Mark Drakeford’s announcement that Covid restrictions are to be lifted on sporting activities across the country.
From Saturday, up to 500 adults can take part in outdoor events in Wales.
This allows the return of mass participation running events including the hugely popular Parkrun events.
Fans will also be allowed back into stadiums from Friday, January 21.
It means supporters will now be able to attend Wales’ first home Six Nations game against Scotland on 12 February, plus other football and rugby matches.
Cardiff City, Swansea City, Newport County and Wrexham will all be able to have fans in attendance from next weekend, though Swansea are the only side with a home fixture on Saturday, 22 January when Preston North End visit in the Championship.
We are delighted with the news announced from the @WelshGovernment that from tomorrow up to 500 adults can take part in outdoor events in Wales allowing the return of mass participation running events including @parkrun #Unite
— @welshathletics (@WelshAthletics) January 14, 2022
Parkrun Cymru has advised runners to check with local organisers before setting out to events as many may not re-start until January 22, due to the short notice and potential lack of volunteers.
Further lifting of restrictions over the next two weeks will also ensure major national competitions like the Welsh Indoor Athletics Championships at the end of this month will be able to go ahead.
Welsh Athletics chief executive James Williams welcomed the news shortly after it was announced by Welsh Government on Friday afternoon.
“The news today is very positive and will enable our sport to get back to some form of normality over the next few weeks,” said Williams.
“It’s no doubt a great relief for so many who will be keen to get their kit on and get running again at the weekend.
“It’s a key time of year for many new or returning runners, and being able to meet up, and enjoy the social experience of parkrun and running races, will be a big boost to those getting in to running for the first time or those looking to take on competitive challenges and targets.”
Welcome Back!! 👏 👏 👏
Following today’s Welsh Govt announcement that Covid-19 restrictions are being eased, we look forward to welcoming fans back to Parc y Scarlets for the @ChampionsCup tie against @BristolBears on Sat, Jan 22.
— Scarlets Rugby (@scarlets_rugby) January 14, 2022
Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Steve Phillips said: “We’re delighted that full crowds can return for the Six Nations in Wales.
“The difference a crowd makes to performance on the field is immeasurable.
“Having watched the Six Nations 2021 tournament without crowds, the recent update from Welsh government is hugely encouraging.
“This decision from Welsh government has come at the right time for Welsh rugby, not just at international level but for the whole of the professional game and for our community clubs.”
Williams also emphasised the importance of the announcement for Wales’ elite athletes, with a number of major global competitions on the horizon in 2022.
“It’s also a crucial period leading into The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham later this year,” he said.
“The removal of restrictions will allow for a full indoor programme of events and enable our athletes and coaches to plan with certainty.”
The Welsh National Indoor Athletics Championships will take place on the 29th and 30th of January at the National Indoor Athletics Centre in Cardiff as planned.
We are delighted that restrictions in Wales are being lifted allowing parkrun to resume. Given the short notice and the need to obtain commitment of volunteers it’s likely that some will restart on 22nd January. Please check the website of your local event before travelling.
— parkrun Cymru (@parkrunCymru) January 14, 2022
Alternative scenarios had been being investigated with limited fields and a cap on spectators being considered.
Welsh Athletics Head of Competitions, Rhiannon Linington-Payne said: “This is a big relief and a big boost for the athletes and their supporters.
“Until now, we had been planning for the events to take place within the restrictions placed on the sport in December, but we will now look to revert to ‘plan A’ and deliver what will be a much anticipated and exciting indoor championships.
“We will spend the next few days confirming timetables and will aim to get the entries open early next week. We look forward to seeing our athletes and coaches over the coming weeks – please get your entries in and be part of the celebration of our sport.”
Throughout the pandemic, the governing body has emphasised that sport and physical activity have an important role to play in protecting the mental and physical wellbeing of the population.
To that end, it says it will continue to advocate and work in partnership with stakeholders across Wales to inspire and support as many people of all ages to benefit from being active through running and athletics.
The #JDCymruLeagues schedule will resume in full from Friday, 21 January. ⬇️
— JD Cymru Leagues (@CymruLeagues) January 14, 2022
Welsh Athletics’ Run Wales programme supports beginner and established runners to run safely, find local groups and access advice. Its coach and leader education programmes train volunteers to facilitate and motivate athletes and runners ensuring there are opportunities to take part safely for everyone.
From Saturday, January 15, the number of people who can be present at outdoor events will rise from 50 to 500.
From Friday 21 January Wales would move to alert level 0 for all outdoor activities. This means there will be no limits on the number of people who can take part in outdoor activities.
- Crowds will be able to return to outdoor sporting events
- Outdoor hospitality would be able to operate without additional reasonable measures.
- The COVID Pass will be required for entry to larger outdoor events.
If the downward trend continues, from Friday 28 January Wales would move to alert level 0 for all indoor activities.