The Scottish Government has announced it has “no plans” to allow football supporters back into grounds around the SPFL.

Despite up to 4,000 fans being allowed into stadia in ‘low-risk’ parts of England, the Scottish Government has held firm to deny this opportunity to fans of SPFL clubs, including Celtic, who joined Aberdeen chairman David Cormack in imploring First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to allow a limited number of supporters.

Celtic shared a statement by Neil Doncaster, Chief Executive of the SPFL, on their website last night. 

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However, in an announcement made today, Joe Fitzpatrick MSP, Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing said (via The Herald):

In terms of football, rugby etc, a maximum of 300 supporters are allowed in areas with level 0 and level 1 restrictions.

We are considering how and when this figure may increase – but it is important to emphasise there is no immediate prospect of an increase given the fragile situation with the virus.

We have no plans to extend admission to supporters in level 2 or level 3 areas.

Scottish Daily Politics 2019

Scottish Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing Minister Joe Fitzpatrick (Photo by Ken Jack/Getty Images)

A huge blow for supporters

In a year like this, a sensible and methodical approach to allowing fans of football clubs would have provided relief for many. The fact that we are able to watch sport at all during this very strange year is a blessing in itself, but to have actually been able to watch live games would be a boost.

Unfortunately, with Tiered restrictions in place, specifically Tier 4 in Glasgow and the surrounding area, it doesn’t look as if Celtic will be able to host its wonderful support for a while yet.

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While Celtic have the financial means to ride out this crisis, it does not bode well for clubs lower in the Scottish football pyramid, who are struggling to survive through to 2021.

Celtic Park

Celtic Park / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

What now?

Even in the event of fans being allowed back into stadia, it would still be the case that the majority of supporters would be forced to watch games from home, usually through club-run live streams.

Many clubs, in order to make some kind of match day profit, have introduced hefty Pay-per-view offers, which could be unsustainable for many supporters given the economic impact of COVID-19 on the Scottish workforce.

If we’re stuck with this pandemic for the foreseeable, broadcasters, the clubs, the SPFL and the Government need to come together to provide a service for football supporters. It may seem trite during a global health crisis, but Scottish football is enormously popular and has significant economic value.

In fact, the Scottish Premiership leads Europe in terms of fan attendance figures on a per capita basis (BBC).

When we get back into Celtic Park, it’ll feel incredible. The fact is, we could be waiting for a fair while yet.

Read David Walton’s considered take on this issue here.

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