The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has allowed 20 per cent audiences to attend the HBL Pakistan Super League 2021, which will be played in Karachi and Lahore from February 20 to March 22, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced on Thursday.
The decision means around 7,500 ticketed spectators will be allowed to watch matches at Karachi's National Stadium per match day, while around 5,500 will be able to attend each match day at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
"During the course of the event, the NCOC and the PCB will continue to work together and monitor the situation before a decision to increase crowd numbers for the three playoffs and the final is made," the board said in a statement.
The NCOC reached the decision following a "detailed and comprehensive briefing" by the PCB officials, in which they assured national authorities that the event organisers and the PCB will strictly follow the government's Covid-19 standard operating procedures, including social distancing.
In the wake of the decision, the PCB will soon announce its ticketing policy to provide further clarity to the fans on how they can purchase tickets and the process to enter and exit the venues during the matches.
Commenting on the development, PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani said he was “thankful to the NCOC for trusting the PCB and allowing limited fans to watch live action of the HBL Pakistan Super League 2021. This is an endorsement that the PCB is an institution which is capable of planning and then successfully implementing Covid-19 SOPs during its marquee event being staged in Pakistan for the second successive year."
“Fans are the PCB’s biggest asset and we are delighted that no matter a small number, but some will be able to have access to the matches," he added.
Mani said while not everyone will get an opportunity to watch the matches due to the limited number of seats, "these are baby-steps and considering that most of the sport events are being played in empty stadium[s], this is a positive achievement and step in the right direction."
“I am optimistic that if we can maintain strict protocols during the HBL PSL 2021 matches we will have a strong case for more fans in the 2021-22 season in which we have to host high-profile international teams such as New Zealand, England and the West Indies as well as quality domestic events, including the National T20 Cup, Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and the Pakistan Cup,” he emphasised.