Holding the British and Irish Lions series with South Africa in Australia has received growing support due to the prospect of packed stadiums at matches.
Australia first offered to hold the test series Down Under last month, but the offer was initially met with a mixed response from both Lions and South African officials.
However, according to The Telegraph, the proposal is looking increasing likely, with the Lions board set to examine holding the series in Australia in detail at a meeting on Thursday.
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) February 14, 2021
Unlike alternate proposals of holding the tour in South Africa as scheduled or holding the series in the UK and Ireland, fans would be able to attend matches in Australia.
Several sporting events with attendances in their 10s of thousands have already been held in Australia in recent months, with Super Rugby AU due to kick off this weekend under no spectator limitations.
‘We can successfully host this.’
Australia is home to many ex-pats from South Africa, the UK and Ireland, with Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan believing sold-out stadiums to be a distinct possibility.
“If we sold out Sydney or Perth, which is achievable if we are allowed to have full crowds, it would just be mind-blowing for the players.
“I know lockdown in the UK has been tough but in Sydney life is relatively normal. We can successfully host this.”
McLennan has previously insisted that all profits from the series would go the Lions and South Africa, after Australia’s costs were covered, and indicated that Australian state governments were behind the proposal.
“The New South Wales government is committed to hosting and running sports of all types and are probably the best at doing it in the world.
“I think the players would really enjoy it and I am confident we could also deliver a really decent cheque back to South Africa and the Lions. We will get it sorted if we are told by April,” McLennan commented.
Experience with hosting tournaments in covid times
Australia hosted last year’s Tri-Nations tournament with New Zealand and Argentina (South Africa pulled out) last year, with games held in Sydney and Brisbane.
There is currently a mandatory two-week quarantine period for this entering Australia, but McLennan is confident a similar arrangement to the one used in last year’s Tri-Nations can be found.
“It is an evolving situation but if you look at what we did with New Zealand and Argentina last year, we created ‘bubbles’ where they were able to train and quarantine and we would do the same for the Lions and South Africa.
“There was no diminishment in their training capabilities. Take Argentina, they knocked off the All Blacks for the first time ever and everyone had a great time. We just need a commitment and then we can get it organised.”
While there has been opposition to holding the series in Australia, it is currently the only proposal which is capable of affording some semblance of normality to both players and supporters.