Celtic and Rangers fans have reacted to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s latest announcement that gave the green light for capacity crowds to attend sporting events from next Monday.
The Scottish Government took the decision to restrict mass gatherings at outdoor events to just 500 supporters for “up to three week” on December 26 due to a surge of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
The move prompted the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) to bring forward the cinch Premiership’s winter break to coincide with the attendance limit.
Sturgeon set out the new guidelines to MSP’s today and SNP ministers agreed to lift the 500-spectator limit as planned from Monday 17th January.
The change in rules means crowds will be able to return to Scottish Premiership games, including the delayed second Old Firm Derby of the season and for the Six Nations rugby tournament, which begins next month.
Top-flight clubs will resume from their winter break next week, with Celtic hosting Hibernian on Monday night.
It remains unclear whether restrictions on people participating in indoor sports will be lifted.
Speaking in parliament earlier today, Ms Sturgeon said: “It is reasonable and right to be hopeful on the strength of the latest data, however for the period ahead, it is also prudent to remain careful and cautious.
“This is the balance of judgement that has formed the decisions that the cabinet reached this morning.
“As I indicated earlier, we will begin to lift the protective measures announced before Christmas from Monday but in a phased way that will allow us to form in the days ahead a clearer picture of the trends in infections and associated impacts.
“As a quick reminder, the measures I am specifically referring to here at limits on attendances at live public events, the requirement for distancing between groups in public indoor place, and the requirement for table service in hospitality venues serving alcohol on the premises.
“I expect to confirm further dates next week. However I can confirm today that the attendance limit of 500 at large-scale outdoor events will be lifted from Monday 17 January.
“That means, for example, that spectators will be permitted again at major outdoor sporting events, including football fixtures scheduled for early next week, and the forthcoming Six Nations rugby matches.”
However, it emerged the Covid certification scheme will remain in place, with Scots now requiring a Covid booster jag to use vaccine passports, including for entry to football grounds.
The First Minister added: Firstly, our guidance will now stipulate that the organisers of large events of 1000 or more people should check the certification status of at least 50 per cent of attendees rather than the current 20 per cent or at least 1000 people, whichever figure is highest.
“And second, from Monday the requirement to be fully vaccinated for the purposes of Covid certification will including having a booster if the second dose was more than four months ago.
“The NHA Covid status app for domestic use will be updated from Thursday so that its QR code includes evidence of booster vaccination.”
The news comes after Scottish football clubs had floated the idea of playing games South of the border but clubs in the north of England could charge substantial amounts of money for the privilege of using their stadiums.
A Rangers fan group staged a demonstration outside the Scottish parliament about the Government’s handling of the Covid restrictions affecting football supporters.
The ‘Union Bears’ unfurled a banner at Holyrood, delivering the message: “Stop Control” and released a statement which read: “Almost three weeks have passed since the Scottish Government imposed ill-thought -out restrictions of a 500-capacity limitation regardless of the size of the stadium.
“Once again, the Scottish Government has rushed into an authoritarian-like decision and are using football fans as scapegoats.
“In additions, the Scottish Government has yet to offer any indication of a roadmap out of these latest restrictions.
“Attending football matches is such an important event for so many, particularly throughout the festive season which is a tradition spanning generations.
“Football serves as respite for many within their country, particularly in a time where there is so much uncertainty in people’s livelihoods.
“It is crucial that the Scottish Government provides the required support rather than punishment of capacity limitations.”
GlasgowWorld takes a look at the reaction from fans on social media after today’s declaration:
@Matt574712592: “So as it happens Celtic and the other teams that voted to bring forward the winter break were absolutely spot on.”
@Strumme56293558: “Well done to the 10 clubs who voted for an early winter shutdown. It made sense. Let’s get all supporters back in to stadiums no matter what team you support.”
@Baz177: “A long time til Monday. It could all change again if Celtic get a couple of injuries and Covid cases.”
@ARLAWSON_AL: “What a farce... she disrupted Scottish football and cost clubs money for what? Diddly squat!”
@johndeacons72: “We want fans back ASAP as punters have been missing the fitba like made, including me. I’m buzzing the crowds are back.”