Celtic v Rangers: Jeane Freeman warns fans to ‘stay at home’ as officials confirm that controversial match will go ahead

Jeane Freeman has issued a stern warning to football fans ahead of the Old Firm game on Sunday, as officials confirmed the fixture would go ahead despite safety concerns.

The Health Secretary told viewers of the Scottish Government daily briefing on Friday that both Celtic and Rangers’ supporters should “stay at home” and “find other ways to celebrate”.

Her warning came as justice secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed the game would go ahead, saying there had been “extensive engagement” between ministers and officials, both clubs, the SPFL, Police Scotland and Glasgow City Council ahead of the fixture at Celtic Park.

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There had been doubts over whether the game would go ahead after thousands of Rangers fans breached lockdown rules to gather in the streets of Glasgow after their side were confirmed as Scottish Premiership champions on March 7.

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Ms Freeman said: “My message to all of us, every single one of us, is that until the guidance changes, right now, stay at home, find other ways to celebrate.”

The health secretary said she wanted people to enjoy themselves, but stressed that it was “vital” that the virus is not given more opportunities to spread.

She also thanked women across Scotland who heard her advice not to attend mass vigils last week in memory of Sarah Everard and urged football fans to do the same.

Jeane Freeman has issued a stern warning to football fans ahead of the Celtic v Rangers match this weekend, as officials confirmed that the game would go ahead despite safety concerns. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins said a “significant policing operation” would be in place for the match and urged supporters to behave in a responsible manner.

Mr Yousaf added: “Celtic and Rangers have strongly emphasised to their supporters throughout this week that they must stay at home and not gather. I welcome their positive and constructive approach to working with us to ensure the game can safely take place behind closed doors.

“Police Scotland have confirmed there will be a significant police presence in Glasgow to maintain public safety.

“I urge the fans to listen to the messages from their clubs, the police and government to stay at home.

Ms Freeman said she wanted people to enjoy themselves, but stressed that it was “vital” that the virus is not given more opportunities to spread. (Photo by Andrew Milligan - Pool/Getty Images)

“I also encourage Celtic and Rangers – and all other clubs in Scotland – to continue to urge their supporters to stay home during games until they are permitted to return.

“With a number of high-profile games scheduled for the remainder of the season, it is important there is no complacency and pressure is maintained to ensure we continue to supress the virus.”

The gatherings of Rangers fans on March 7 had been described by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as “infuriating and disgraceful”.

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins said police had visited fans from both clubs to discourage them from attending gatherings, and asked them to pass that message on to other supporters.

Mr Higgins said he was “hopeful that the message has landed”, but warned police would make arrests if need be.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme:

“What I’m urging everybody is listen to the clubs, listen to the messages from your managers and your captains and please, please, please stay at home.”

Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross – himself an assistant referee – said he was confident that supporters would keep “in line with the current restrictions that we are all living with at the moment.”

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