Scottish sports fans could return to stadia and arenas from May 17 as part of the Government’s recovery efforts from COVID-19 restrictions.
Barring a handful of fixtures, Scottish football clubs have been forced to play behind closed doors since the global pandemic took hold in March 2020. However, the Scottish Government has confirmed that a maximum of 500 fans could be allowed back inside stadia from May 17, subject to physical distancing conditions being observed and advice being followed.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday (Tuesday) set out the latest news regarding Scotland’s roadmap out of COVID-19 restrictions. Sturgeon said she expected the country to reach Level 2 on the Protection Levels chart on May 17, before moving to Level 1 in early June, and to Level 0 in late June.
Level 2 allows for maximum capacities for stadia and events of 100 indoors, 500 for outdoor seated, and 250 for outdoors standing. For Level 1 this increases to 200, 1,000 and 500, respectively; before reaching Level 0’s figures of 400, 2,000 and 1,000.
Sturgeon said: “We have made significant progress in reducing the number of new COVID cases in Scotland, partly due to the success of the vaccination programme but also because so many people have stuck so well to the rules. Daily cases are at the lowest level since September, and have declined more than 85% since early January.
“Reaching Level 0 is not the extent of our ambitions, and later on in the summer as the number of people who have been vaccinated increases further we hope that a level of normality well beyond Level 0 will become possible.”
For Scottish football, the May 17 date brings into play the Premiership, Championship and League One play-off finals. The second legs of the latter two events are due to be played on May 18, with the Premiership play-off games due to be held on May 19 and 23. As things currently stand, the Premiership play-offs would see Kilmarnock, which plays at Rugby Park (pictured), face either Raith Rovers, Dundee or Inverness.
However, it has already been announced that there will be no fans at Hampden Park for the Scottish Cup final on May 22, as the venue will have already been handed over to Uefa for Glasgow’s staging of Euro 2020 games.
The Scottish Football Association (SFA) last week announced it had received approval from the Government to allow for up to 25% capacity for the four games at Hampden Park. This will equate to around 12,000 fans, with the SFA stating this guidance will be subject to continued progress with reducing the prevalence of the virus and the roll-out of the vaccination programme.
Sturgeon failed to refer to football specifically in her announcement and senior executives are said to be seeking talks so that they can firm up planning. A senior Premiership official told the Daily Record newspaper: “Scotland has been given the go-ahead for around 12,000 fans to be at Hampden for the Euros, providing there aren’t any more spikes with the pandemic, which is brilliant news.
“We know the most important thing is controlling the pandemic and making sure people are safe. It is clear things are moving in the right direction and if that continues then will be seeking talks with the Government over the next few weeks to see if we can put a road map in place to get fans back into stadiums.
“We have seen how important football has been throughout the lockdown and getting fans back gradually and then building things up is hopefully the next logical step. All the clubs know fans are the lifeblood of our clubs and Scottish football hasn’t been the same without them in the grounds.”
Image: Tom Hodgkinson/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size