Sporting events in Wales will be held behind closed doors from Boxing Day, it has been confirmed.
It will be the first time that there have been blanket restrictions preventing fans from attending sporting fixtures in the country since the opening half of 2021.
The changes – announced by the Welsh Government at midnight on Tuesday – were made to help Wales control the spread of the new Omicron variant.
It means fans will not be permitted to watch the United Rugby Championship clash between Cardiff and the Scarlets at the Arms Park on Boxing Day.
The other Welsh derby contest taking place on December 26 between the Ospreys and the Dragons has already been postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak within the Swansea region’s camp.
Cardiff City were due to host Coventry City in a Championship fixture on Sunday, although that fixture has been called off as the Bluebirds were unable to fulfil the fixture after returning a number of positive coronavirus cases.
Steve Morison’s side could play in front of their away supporters at Bournemouth on December 30 and at West Brom on January 2 – although fans will not be allowed to watch the action live when Cardiff host Preston in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday, January 9.
Swansea City find themselves in a similar situation, with the Jack Army able to travel to London on Boxing Day to watch the Swans take on Millwall at The Den. However, they will not be able to watch their side host Luton Town in south Wales three days later.
Newport County’s League Two clash with Forest Green Rovers on Boxing Day has already been postponed.
An EFL spokesperson said: “The EFL notes the disappointing news that fans of Welsh clubs competing in the EFL will be unable to watch their team play live at home over the festive period, but we appreciate there are many factors influencing each administration’s decision.
“Looking forward, the League will continue to work with our broadcast partners and other relevant stakeholders throughout this difficult period as we consider how we can appropriately support our Welsh clubs and their supporters so they can watch their team while matches are played behind closed doors.
“In addition, we will engage with the authorities in Wales to determine what type and or level of financial support they can provide our clubs in Wales whilst they are unable to welcome supporters through the turnstiles.”
Monday’s Welsh Grand National at Chepstow will now take place without spectators in attendance while the Cardiff Devils will be unable to have fans in attendance when they host Coventry Blaze and Guildford Flames at Ice Arena Wales on December 27 and January 1 respectively.
The measures – which will be reviewed “regularly” – are for all indoor and outdoor sporting events in Wales.
The overall rate of coronavirus infections is continuing to rise in Wales and now stands at just under 550 cases per 100,000 people.
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Economy minister Vaughan Gething said: “Sporting events over the Christmas period are one of the big highlights of the year.
“Unfortunately, the new Omicron variant is a significant development in the pandemic and could cause a large number of infections.
“We need to do everything we can to protect people’s health and control the spread of this awful virus.
“Throughout the pandemic we have followed scientific and public health advice to keep people safe.
“The advice is clear – we need to act now in response to the threat of Omicron. We are giving people as much notice of these decisions as we can.
“Crowds will come back as soon as possible. We want everyone to be here to enjoy their favourite sports.”
Gething also confirmed a £3m Spectator Sports Fund will be made available to support clubs and sporting venues affected by the new measures to protect public health.