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Talks continue on best way for Scottish football to navigate new restrictions

By December 22, 2021No Comments

Talks will continue on the best way for Scottish football to navigate new restrictions designed to help slow the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Celtic, Motherwell and Hibernian publicly backed calls for the cinch Premiership winter break to be brought forward after sports events in Scotland were effectively put behind closed doors for up to three weeks from Boxing Day.

Maximum crowd levels of 500 will undermine the allure of the festive schedule, which includes derbies in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee.

The cinch Premiership is due to shut down for three weeks following the clash between Hibernian and Hearts on January 3 with top-flight teams returning to Scottish Cup action in the fourth weekend of the year.

Talks on an accelerated winter break would have to include broadcaster Sky Sports, while the Scottish Professional Football League might need to find potential wriggle room in an already-crowded fixture schedule if the festive games are postponed.

With clubs such as Dundee United, St Mirren and St Johnstone undergoing significant Covid-related disruption to their playing squads, with the potential for further issues in the coming days and weeks, postponements of December and New Year games might be taken out of the SPFL’s hands.

After confirming their request, a Celtic statement read: “The game owes it to supporters to explore all opportunities to maximise the prospect of all supporters being able to attend matches and support the game they love.”

Hibs stated that they completely understood the “incredibly difficult situation” and that “health and safety should be at the forefront of every decision, which is why the club has made this proposal to the SPFL”.

A club statement added: “Alongside this, every effort should be made to allow supporters to watch their team and the game they love.

“The club also believes that this will protect the integrity of the competition and would save clubs from the potential loss of substantial revenue.”

Motherwell chief executive Alan Burrows said: “We should start the winter break now, and rearrange these matches when all fans have a chance to attend at a later date when hopefully restrictions are eased.

“That way we increase the likelihood (from zero, currently) that fans can watch the games live, all matches are played under the same parameters and clubs can commercialise the fixtures in line with current budgets.”

Managers from Celtic, Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Dundee also backed the idea to speed up the winter break.

The Scottish football authorities promised to hold a series of consultations in the 24 hours after Tuesday afternoon’s announcement from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster declared it was a “hammer blow” to clubs with lower-league outfits having less room for manoeuvre given they have no winter break.

Doncaster added: “Our clubs have adapted quickly and effectively to previous restrictions and we will work with them in implementing the guidance from today’s announcement in the coming days.”