Ann Budge provides grim fan return verdict that Celtic won't like

By David Walton

March 4, 2021

Ann Budge has provided a grim view on the return of fans to Scottish football stadiums, and it’s one that Celtic won’t like.

Football supporters across Scotland, the UK, and in Europe have essentially been locked out all season. Barring a few trial fixtures before a surge in virus cases, fans haven’t had the chance to see their teams up close.

As things stand, that doesn’t look like changing too much too soon. Even as cases in Scotland start to lower along with the death figures, there are still no discussions as of yet regarding fan returns.

But Budge doesn’t believe capacity stadiums will be present at any stage next season as she slammed the idea of using partial crowds regularly.

As quoted by the Daily Record, the Hearts chairwoman said: “I’m planning on a fairly pessimistic basis and I don’t think we’ll see the beginning of supporters coming back even in August. Perhaps two or three months later than that.

“I don’t see full stadiums, potentially, any time next season unless there is a real change. Partial crowds aren’t the answer. We would lose money. I don’t particularly want small numbers in for a game unless it is part of a trial — as in, ‘If you can cope with this, then we move on.’

“So it’s not a question of getting a certain number back as quickly as possible, it’s about having a pathway to plan sensibly. If we all had no supporters for the whole of next season we would all be in dire trouble.”

Anne Budge overly-pessimistic; Celtic and co need fans back as soon as possible

Back in October, Celtic ran a survey with 17,000 season-ticket holders as they looked to put some pressure on the Scottish Government. It concluded that 99.5% of supporters were ready to return to Parkhead as soon as possible to watch the Hoops.

The Bhoys had been leading the way in the campaign to bring supporters back during the early stages of the season. We also had a test event for a clash against Motherwell back in August rejected by the Scottish Government [BBC].

And the Celtic season-ticket holders will want some clarification on a return soon also. There have been major technical issues with the Pass to Paradise streaming service this season. Everything that could’ve gone wrong has gone wrong in that sense.

Hearts owner Ann Budge (Photo by Paul Devlin/ SNS Group via Getty Images)

But Budge’s view is a touch over-pessemistic. With route-maps available all across Britain regarding the exiting of lockdown, normality appears to be on its way back.

To say there will be no capacity stadiums at any stage over the next 15 months feels difficult to believe. Not unless we’re struck with a further surge from a new variant. Granted, anything’s possible.

However, this isn’t an issue that can be put on the back-burner for too long. Lower league clubs in particular need supporters entering their grounds ASAP. As soon as it’s feasible, there will be massive pressure to get fans back. Hopefully, things won’t get worse before they get better.

In other news, Kris Ajer has been urged to sign a new long-term contract at Celtic.