Covid-19: Scottish Premiership continues, but fans return delayed again


Aberdeen hosted one of two football test events with a crowd of 300 people earlier this month

The Scottish Premiership season will continue but the phased return of fans from 5 October has been postponed.

The indicative date for crowds in stadiums had been pushed back from 14 September and government officials have informed the SPFL of a further delay.

The next prospective pilot events are on hold with the situation to be reviewed again in three weeks.

It means Scotland’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final with Israel on 8 October will be behind closed doors.

So, too, will be the Nations League visit of Slovakia three days later and hopes of having fans inside Celtic Park for the first Old Firm game of the season on 17 October have dwindled further, too.

Sporting bodies in England have already written to the Westminster government asking for financial assistance and BBC Scotland has learned sporting bodies north of the border want to benefit from any sporting recovery fund set up by the UK government.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament earlier on Tuesday that the planned return of fans on 5 October was “unlikely now to go ahead on that timescale” while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new restrictions to combat coronavirus, which could last for up to six months.

However, Ms Sturgeon said not all restrictions would necessarily be in place in Scotland for that length of time.

Test events with fans had been held at two Premiership matches and the most recent rugby match between Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors and Scottish Rugby have also been informed of the latest delay to the return of supporters.

And the European Tour is in talks with the Scottish Government over next week’s Scottish Open golf tournament at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian, which was scheduled to have 650 fans at the final two days of the event – the first Tour event due to have spectators since golf’s return.

More questions for lower league football

There are also now concerns over the lower league football season, which is due to start on 17 October.

That date was chosen with a view to having fans in the stadium, which would bring the revenue needed for clubs to function.

Speaking on Saturday, national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch told Off the Ball that crowds in stadiums are “slightly more at risk” after a rise in Covid-19 cases.

Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson says continuing to play without crowds would be “a big disappointment” and that football should be rewarded for the efforts it has made since returning.

“The protocols we have adhered to are above and beyond anything else – it’s above the NHS frontline staff,” he said.

“And football can give respite from the mental health side of things. In a world where things are complicated and strange, football can be that relieving factor, that little bit of joy and happiness.”

It’s also unclear what new restrictions might mean for testing protocols among clubs in the Scottish Championship, League One and League Two.

Current rules mean those teams could face each other without regular testing, but that may also be reviewed.

‘Premiership, not lower leagues, out of step’

Stenhousemuir chairman Ian McMenemy on Sportsound

It’s not the lower league clubs that are out of step with society, it’s the Premiership clubs that are out of step with society. The Premiership clubs wanted to go quicker than society would allow so the Premiership clubs asked for a system to be put in place that meant they could come back ahead of society unlocking.

Lower league clubs chose not to do so, we chose to stay in step with the rest of society and fully in line with the advice that comes out of government. A few weeks ago government said, ‘the advice now is that all contact sport outside could now resume without testing’. The First Minister today did not change that advice.

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