Fans unlikely to be back in football stadiums sooner, Nicola Sturgeon confirms

There are no plans for Scotland to follow England and allow more fans into stadia more quickly than already laid out, the First Minister has said.

Her comments came after the Scottish Professional Football League’s chief executive called for an emergency meeting with the First Minister to discuss the restrictions.

Neil Doncaster made the plea on behalf of the country’s 42 professional clubs, warning they could face a “death knell” if supporters continue to be shut out.

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He argued clubs in Scotland “have been hit far harder by the lockout than those in England because we depend much more heavily on gate receipts”.

Fans are not going to be allowed back into stadia in line with England, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

His comments follow the announcement in England that up to 4,000 fans will be allowed into stadia in England once lockdown is over provided areas are in lower tiers.

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This is similar to the restrictions in place in Scotland where fans are allowed in to stadiums in level zero and level one areas and only with restricted numbers.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The idea that we are restricting anything right now for no good reason has no basis in reality.

"We do have a situation where fans are allowed back into stadiums in level one areas and we have seen Ross County have fans back in their stadium and we will monitor that and continue to look at how we can safely increase numbers.

“However much Neil Doncaster, for reasons I understand, is only looking at football, we can’t see any sector or any part of society in isolation because there is only so much we can do overall if we are to keep the virus under control.

“But the emphasis has to be in everything we are talking about right now about how we strike the balance that keeps people as safe as possible.”

National clinical director Professor Jason Leitch said while England had announced a “route back for fans” in some tiers after its lockdown, there was “mixed opinion” among public health experts about the move.

“We are cautious, but we have a route back for fans,” he said.

“The route back for fans is lower levels [of coronavirus] – and lower levels rely on prevalence in the community.

“That doesn’t mean that we don’t engage in dialogue and the minister for sport, officials, clinical leaders, me, others who work with me are very happy to continue to engage with the football authorities and to get that back.”

He added: “But it is a risk-based choice. We understand the nature of the football business and we need to both support that financially, but also support it to get that revenue back for them.

“But not at the expense of prevalence, hospital admissions and death.

“And that is the same conversation we have with every sector, whether it is oil and gas, or nightclubs or sport.”

Mr Doncaster said in his letter to the Scottish Government: “If the First Minister refuses to allow football fans all over Scotland to watch their beloved teams in carefully regulated, limited numbers, complete with track and trace, she will have to explain to them the clinical difference between Scottish fans and English fans.

“Make no mistake, failure to get fans back in the very near future will sound the death knell for some of our best-loved clubs and no-one wants that.”

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