Scottish Premiership clubs to cast vote amid Celtic/Rangers winter break shutdown row with decision expected imminently

Celtic released a statement last night calling for the winter break to be brought forward as SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster vowed to do everything he could to help clubs

Scottish Premiership clubs are considering an alternative plan to start the winter break immediately after the Boxing Day fixtures.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that outdoor live events will be capped at 500 supporters yesterday in an attempt to curb the speed of the Omicron variant of the virus, with the Joint Response Group stating the next 24 would be critical in establishing how Scottish football will deal with the new rules.

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Scottish Championship clubs have voted to play through the crowd restrictions. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

As a result, Celtic released a statement last night calling for the winter break to be brought forward to address the significant drop in attendances, with Aberdeen, Hibernian and Motherwell all publicly backing the idea to shutdown earlier than anticipated.

It read: “Everyone at Celtic recognises the difficulties presented to society by the current pandemic, and the health and safety of all must always be our priority.

“In light of today’s announcement regarding supporters attending matches, Celtic can confirm that it has requested that the SPFL bring forward the scheduled winter break and reschedule the fixtures affected by the regulations announced.

“The game owes it to supporters to explore all opportunities to maximise the prospect of all supporter being able to attend matches and support the game they love.”

That would affect the New Year derby between Old Firm rivals Rangers at Parkhead, along with the Edinburgh Derby between Hibernian and Hearts 24 hours later.

Rangers' Ryan Kent (left) in action with Celtic's Stephen Welsh during a cinch Premiership match at Ibrox, on August 29, 2021.

However, Motherwell chief executive Alan Burrows has urged clubs to look at the bigger picture, stating: “I’ve grown up in the west of Scotland and understand it. But we all have to forget injuries, suspensions and 500 fans for this Old Firm game, against 50,000 at Ibrox.

“I know it’s important to supporters and it plays a big part in things but look at St Johnstone playing Celtic on Boxing Day and what that would normally bring to them in cash.

“Think of Aberdeen and the money they will lose from their home games. These clubs have had 18 months of real tough times of trying to stay afloat and we need to stick together.

“We need to be above the, I don’t want to say pettiness as that’s what makes football great, but this is a global pandemic.

“While these restrictions are in place, we have to do what is fundamentally right for Scottish football.

“If we can protect the supporters coming to games, let’s try our best to do that. I understand the difficulties facing the SPFL, but I believe there are ample dates to fit in fixtures.

“Playing games with 500 fans should be the last resort, not the first resort.”

The SPFL board have subsequently asked all 12 top-flight clubs to vote on when the break should be introduced with three options available; to pause after January 3, start the break after Boxing Day or begin the hiatus before Sunday’s games.

After holding crisis talks on Wednesday, TEN clubs declared their wish to call a halt to proceedings after tonight’s set of fixtures, providing Sky Sports agree to reschedule televised live games.

Parkhead will be just 3.3% full for the match with Preston North End (Photo by Ross Parker/ SNS Group)

That option would see a full Boxing Day card of games, December 29 and January 2/3 dates pushed back until after the break.

Due to an already congested fixture programme, it is understood league official have reservations over postponing a further 18 matches.

As of December 26, Premiership games will be played in front of sparse crowds before a stopping, which would mean two rounds of fixtures would need to be rescheduled at a later date.

The third option is to continue playing in front of near-empty stadiums until the scheduled winter break begins in ten days, with Rangers and Ross County said to be in favour of that proposal.

A decision is expected later this evening with the SPFL board ultimately having the final say, via a majority vote.

Meanwhile, Scottish Championship clubs have voted to PLAY ON in front of reduced crowds, with League One and Two expected to follow suit for the initial three-week period.