Decision to scrap plans for fans’ return is devastating, says Andy Last

Hull interim head coach Andy Last has described the decision to scrap plans to allow fans back into matches as devastating and warns it could have serious long-term consequences for the game.

The Rugby Football League’s plans to pilot crowds of 1,000 people at four games next week fell victim to a tightening of Government restrictions following a worsening of the coronavirus pandemic, and chief executive Ralph Rimmer has admitted playing the major finals without crowds now “looks likely”.

While clubs continue to play behind closed doors in order to fulfil their television obligations, Last fears fans could lose the habit of attending matches.

Last said: “It’s devastating. The supporters make such a difference to the players.

“The atmosphere they can create is important so not having the crowd there has an impact.

“When you’re struggling they can lift you and I think that’s one of the big reasons players play the game, that interaction with supporters.

“The passion of the supporters floods onto the field and can trigger passion from the players.”

 

Hull are traditionally one of the best supported clubs in Super League. Last season they enjoyed an average crowd of 11,478 and earlier this year drew 19,599 for the derby with Hull KR.

Last added: “It’s a huge, huge reason why this club is where it’s at. They can be difficult to please sometimes but they turn up week in, week out, and we’re very fortunate to have such a loyal fanbase.

“That’s why it’s so important we get through this Covid situation and start performing in front of live audiences again. We can’t have them drift away from the game because they are the lifeblood of the game in my opinion.

“It’s a worry for the game long-term for a financial point of view. The more time we spend behind close doors, you get used to watching it on TV and the feeling of getting your family ready and going down to the game on a Friday night or a Sunday afternoon may be starting to wear a little bit thin.

“This game without supporters is a game which wouldn’t be able to survive. It’s desperately important they stick with the game and stick with us. We need them back in the ground as soon as possible.”

Hull’s next Super League match is against Salford as part of a triple header at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium on Thursday.

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