How does the governor’s order impact sports? What you need to know

How does the governor’s order impact sports? What you need to know
VCU's Siegel Center will allow 1,000 fans for men's and women's basketball games this season. (Source: VCU Athletics)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Friday saw Gov. Ralph Northam issue new COVID-19 safety mandates across the state, among them a capacity on the number of people at gatherings. So how does this impact the local sports scene? Here are some important notes.

Youth, recreational and high school sports will have a capacity of 25 spectators per field or 30 percent of the venue’s occupancy limit, whichever is fewer. This does not include participants in the athletic contest itself, so high school football and basketball games will be permitted to have 25 fans in the stands while this mandate is in effect. While this cuts the number of people in the seats, it does not prohibit sports from continuing.

“We want to make it very clear that the governor’s order for a reduction in public and private gatherings to 25 individuals applies to spectators and not participants at those events,” said VHSL Executive Director Billy Haun in a statement. “Nothing in the order prevents VHSL member schools from holding contests.”

Of course, each school system can decide on stricter guidelines if they wish, and a number of them, such as Richmond Public Schools, have announced that they will not field winter sports this school year.

High school winter sports may begin contests on Dec. 21.

The order also impacts college basketball, as those facilities are considered sports venues under “entertainment and public amusement” guidelines, according to the governor’s office. This means that capacity must be capped at 250 people or 30 percent of the occupancy load, whichever is fewer. This number includes those participating in the contest, as well as personnel members.

Earlier this week, VCU announced its intention to allow 1,000 fans at men’s and women’s basketball games at the Siegel Center. This will certainly impact those plans and the Rams are currently in the process of reviewing all of the information.

“We are looking into this new guidance and will provide clarity when we have it,” said VCU Director of Athletics Ed McLaughin.

Richmond has yet to announce a plan for spectators during the 2020-2021 basketball season.

Elsewhere around the commonwealth, James Madison was preparing to welcome 1,000 fans for the first games in the new Atlantic Union Bank Center on Nov. 25.

“The measures include reducing the number of attendees (participants and spectators) at a sporting event from 1,000 to 250, which will impact the Nov. 25 start to the basketball season in the Atlantic Union Bank Center,” the Dukes said in a statement. “JMU Athletics will have more information early next week regarding impact on ticket sales and seating distribution for upcoming basketball games in line with the new guidelines.”

Virginia and Virginia Tech will obviously also be impacted by the order. The Hokies announced plans earlier this week to allow 1,000 fans into Cassell Coliseum, while the Cavaliers noted the state guidelines, but not their specific plans as of this week.

This is a developing story and we will bring you more information as it becomes available.

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