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VSHL asks to boost attendance limits once games resume / October 14, 2020
The VHSL has asked Gov. Ralph Northam’s office to consider allowing up to 1,000 people to attend high school sporting events. Currently under Virginia’s Phase-3 Plan, high school sports are limited to 250 people — a number that includes players and coaches as well as spectators.

The request by VHSL executive director John W. (Billy) Haun and associate director Tom Dolan comes as member high schools restart athletics following the VHSL’s recent adoption of the Championships + 1 calendar.

Haun said the governor’s office was open to the idea and would take it under consideration.

“They were receptive to that idea and told us they would look at that, and late in October, early November we can get back in touch with them and see if there could be any change in that,” Haun was quoted in a report by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Virginia’s 50-person limit on gatherings under Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan expands to a 250-person limit under Phase 3. Entertainment venues (including museums and zoos) will have their capacity limit raised to 50 percent with a maximum of 1,000 people in any space under Phase-3 guidelines.

With COVID-19 still impacting high school sports, having 750 additional people able to attend an event would definitely be a help to local and area schools sports programs, in particular football and basketball games which are spectator draws.

Attend a Bluestone Barons or Park View Dragons football game and various school organizations/clubs can be seen actively seeking support through fundraisers and other means. At Bluestone High School, one of the biggest fundraisers for the band is the sale of concessions at the football games.

Income from concession sales was ongoing even when Bluestone football went through a period of nearly 10 seasons without a win — the gridiron game still recording the highest gate totals among sports. Several groups benefit by attending the games.

Member high schools of the James River District — of which Bluestone is a part — also say sports are important vehicle to finance athletics and other activities the entire student population as a whole gets to enjoy.

JRD members Randolph-Henry, Prince Edward, Central Lunenburg and Buckingham High School athletic directors,each said their sports programs support multiple activities. As reported by Titus Mohler of The Farmville Herald, not having a football season of any type would affect how many sports departments operate.

Russ Gowin, athletic director at Buckingham, said football is definitely the most profitable of all the sports at the high school. Gowin made the point that not only did every varsity sport receive new uniforms over the last two years, the football program also helps with athletic expenses at the middle school.

At Buckingham, football partnering with the Student Council Association has helped to support the prom, homecoming dance and senior breakfast.

Football and basketball generally draw the largest crowds at the school.

At Central Lunenburg, varsity and jayvee football games draw the largest crowds. The school’s AD Wallace Owen said a majority of the profits gained through football goes to pay the near $20,000 bill for officials to cover all the sports at the school.

Randolph-Henry AD Christopher Holt and Prince Edward AD Rodney Kane, said their school’s football programs also are more involved in student life and the community than most folks realize.

The VHSL is also actively looking to help schools through this rough period using available technologies, as discussed at its Sept. 23 executive committee meeting. On the agenda: NFHS Network and PlayON Sports School Broadcast Program which affords opportunities for individual schools to broadcast regular season games and receive revenue from subscriber fees. PlayOn Sports is the company providing the platform for the E-sports pilot-program that VHSL conducts.

Online ticket sales via GoFan — a portal through Huddle, Inc. — and a partnership with the Virginia College Savings Plan (VA529) were also topics on the VHSL meeting agenda. The savings plan program is being delayed from its July 1 rollout until January 2021 due to COVID-19.

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