Scottish football fans’ worst fears have been realised after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that all matches will be restricted to just 500 spectators for the next three weeks, including Boxing Day.
The First Minister made the announcement during her Covid briefing to the Scottish Government, leaving clubs without vital matchday income over the festive period, and most supporters unable to attend some of the most eagerly-anticipated matches on the football calendar.
The Old Firm derby between Celtic and Rangers at Parkhead on January 2 will now effectively be played behind closed doors, as well as the Edinburgh derby between Hibernian and Hearts at Easter Road on January 3.
It is also a blow for Scotland’s two biggest professional rugby sides, Glasgow and Edinburgh, who are due to stage the annual 1872 Cup at Murrayfield on December 27 and in Glasgow on January 2.
The rule change will also cause attendance headaches for clubs outwith Scotland’s top-flight in the SPFL pyramid.
In a statement, the First Minister said; “First, from 26 December - inclusive - for a period of three weeks, we intend to place limits on the size of public events that can take place.
“This does not apply to private life events such as weddings. For indoor standing events the indoor seated events the limit will be 100; for indoor seated events it will be 20; and for outdoor events it will be 500 seated or standing.
“Physical distancing of 1 metre will be required at events that go ahead within these limits. This will of course make sports matches, including football, effectively spectator-free over this three weeks period.”
Celtic face an away trip to St Johnstone on Boxing Day, with Rangers hosting St Mirren at Ibrox.
Meanwhile, both Old Firm clubs have been hit with fines by UEFA following incidents between supporters during their respective Europa League clashes.
Hoops fans were involved in several incidents during their away trip to Germany to face Bayer Leverkusen and the club have been fined a total of £32,587.
£25,963 will be paid directly to UEFA for the throwing of objects during the match, while a further £6,624 for setting off fireworks inside the BayArena with Leverkusen fans also punished.
Glasgow rivals Rangers found themselves in hot water following their match against Sparta Prague, with the Ibrox club hit with a £4,701 fine after fans were caught throwing various objects.
It is not the first time both clubs have been sanctioned this season in Europe with Gers supporters involved in crowd disturbances against Brondby, while two Celtic supporters groups were handed a significant fine by the European football governing body for their UEFA Countdown-themed banner protesting about their 3.30pm kick-off time against Ferencvaros.