Covid concerns

Scots Six Nations blow as fans barred from Wales game

No fans: Murrayfield will be empty for Wales visit (pic: SNS Group)

Scottish Rugby is braced for another financial blow after confirming next month’s Six Nations clash with Wales at Murrayfield is to be staged behind closed doors.

Other scheduled home fixtures against Ireland and Italy remain “under review” due to the pandemic, according to officials.

Although Scottish Rugby had been hopeful of staging games in front of a limited number of supporters, there is a real possibility that the entire championship will be played without any fans in attendance.

With the French government still to decide whether to allow their team to participate, the championship could yet follow the same path as last year when some matches were postponed and others moved to later in the calendar.

The Welsh clash, which is scheduled for Saturday, 13 February, is the Scots’ first home game of the tournament. The Irish are due to visit on Sunday, 14 March and Italy six days later.

The last time Scotland hosted three Six Nations games was in 2019, with more than 400,000 spectators flooding through the turnstiles in a year which also saw summer Tests against Georgia and France.

Sell-out crowds at Murrayfield helped Scottish Rugby post a turnover for that year of £61m.

Although aided by £20m in grants and loans from the Scottish Government to help offset the effects of the pandemic, as well as a bank lending facility and a multi-million-pound investment in the PRO14 by the private equity firm CVC, a Six Nations championship without any fans at Murrayfield will put further unwelcome strain on Scottish Rugby’s finances.

Speaking at the SRU’s annual general meeting last month, chief executive Mark Dodson said: “The important thing is that our financial position, regardless of no crowds at the Six Nations, is secure because of the refinancing we’ve achieved through to 2022.”

Gregor Townsend’s side is set to open its Six Nations campaign against England at Twickenham on Saturday, 6 February.

Townsend has injury concerns ahead of the clash, with Edinburgh’s Stuart McInally struggling with the neck problem which kept him out of the weekend loss to Glasgow and Warriors’ Fraser Brown and George Horne already ruled out of the entire championship.

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