Rally Finland gains new hope from football exemption rule

Finland's planned 50-person limit for gatherings has an exception for football that could work for WRC too

Thierry Neuville

A Finnish government minister has given World Rally Championship fans a ray of hope with news that the country’s lockdown restrictions will begin to be lifted from June 1.

While large public gatherings of up to 500 people remain prohibited until the end of July, gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed from next month – this had been restricted to 10 since March.

Sports minister Hanna Kosonen told Finnish media outlet Yle that breaking the limit of 50 is acceptable at football matches. There’s hope such a policy could be extended to Rally Finland in August.

“Events must make sure that there are not tight crowds of people, for instance queuing up for tickets or at sales points,” said Kosonen.

“Sporting events must look after the wellbeing and safety of players, for instance by ensuring enough space in changing rooms.”

Veikkausliiga, Finland’s domestic football league, is now set to play its first fixtures on July 1, a month before Rally Finland is currently scheduled to take place on August 6-9.

Rally Finland still faces potential postponement to either September or October, as laid out in the WRC Promoter’s latest calendar update on Wednesday morning.

Children will return to schools in Finland next week and restaurants and cafes will open with certain restrictions from June 1.

Crucially, Finland will partially open its borders to members of the EU’s Schengen area.

A government statement said: “As of 14 May 2020, the statutory restrictions on border traffic will be lifted in cross-border traffic across the Schengen internal borders by allowing employment or commission-related commuting and other essential traffic.”

However, this leaves UK-based teams such as M-Sport potentially needing Finland to further loosen its restrictions, as the United Kingdom is not a member of the Schengen Area.