North Wales Crusaders have been left frustrated in their efforts to get fans back to matches, leaving the two Welsh League 1 clubs at a disadvantage to their rivals.
While the English clubs have been able to welcome fans back since May 17, the restrictions in Wales differ meaning Crusaders will not be able to welcome fans until at least their home game with Doncaster on June 13.
That is despite the best efforts of the club, who have been lobbying local politicians and Wales Minister for Sport Dawn Bowden to highlight their plight.
Club director, Mark A Jones, said: “I’ve received notification that June 7 will be the most likely date to allow fans back, dependent on data relating to the Indian variant. I’ve asked if it’s likely we could be allowed our home game against Coventry on June 6 to be played in from of fans – and told this is absolutely unlikely.
“We’ve found a fantastic venue at Eirias Park but playing behind closed doors is nothing but expense and puts us at a disadvantage in comparison with other English League 1 clubs.
“I pointed out that it wasn’t just North Wales Crusaders that would be at a financial disadvantage but the bus company that takes the fans, the train company, the local pub, the food and drink outlets, the brewery that supplies the beer to the stadium etc due to this.
“It seems strange that fans can go and sit inside a pub for two to three hours and watch our game on a live stream, but 300 could not attend in a 3000-seater stadium in the open air!”
Their League 1 rivals West Wales Raiders are in the same boat, with their first home game with fans potentially a Welsh derby with Crusaders on June 19.
This Sunday, North Wales travel to Barrow, who are able to welcome up to 3,000 fans to their Craven Park ground and have granted Crusaders a small allocation for away supporters.
They have already played two home games behind closed doors and a third – against Coventry on June 6 – will be the same.
This is on top of having already moved home venue from Queensway Stadium in Wrexham to Stadiwm Zip World in Colwyn Bay to comply with COVID protocols.
A total of nine pilot events with crowds are being held in Wales, including open-air festivals, a cricket match between Glamorgan and Lancashire, plus a Wales football international against Albania.
The Football League play-off matches involving Newport County and Swansea City have also been permitted fans as part of the pilots, though none are being held north of Brecon.
Crusaders had applied to host a test event via Wales Rugby League, but no reason was provided as to why they weren’t selected.