Neil Doncaster hails 'sensible decision' as Scottish football prepares to welcome back fans

Neil Doncaster has welcomed the "sensible decision" to lift crowd restrictions on Scottish football matches following the announcement that capacity crowds can return from next week.

Neil Doncaster, Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish Professional Football League, has welcomed the decision to lift crowd restrictions on matches. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

The SPFL chief executive was reacting to the latest Covid addresss from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon where she confirmed that the 500 limit placed on attendances since Boxing Day will be removed from Monday, January 17, the same day Celtic host Hibs as the Scottish Premiership returns from its extended winter break.

Stricter entry requirements will now mean fans must have received their vaccine booster in order to attend matches, if they received the second dose more than four months ago, with clubs also now required to spot-check half of all supporters in attendance as opposed to 20 per cent previously.

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Proof of a negative lateral flow test will also be sufficient to gain entry.

Welcoming the changes, Doncaster said: “Today’s announcement is a sensible decision that will be welcomed by clubs and hundreds of thousands of fans across the country.

“Football is not the same without supporters, and I know how much it will mean to them to be back in stadiums watching matches again.

“This news will also be a real financial boost for our 42 member clubs, who have faced an incredibly challenging set of circumstances since the pandemic began.

“Clubs will continue to play their part to keep fans and players safe and I would like to thank them for their efforts in following the most recent restrictions at such short notice.

“Everyone in Scottish football can now look forward to some cracking matches and a really competitive second half to the season.”

Scottish football's Joint Response Group said it was “pleased” with the announcement and advised clubs to recommend that all fans take a lateral flow test before travelling to a match, regardless of their vaccination status.

A statement read: "The national game has again played its part in helping the Scottish Government’s effort to overcome COVID-19, by facilitating pop-up vaccination centres at several stadia to accelerate the booster programme and by complying with the restrictions outlined prior to the festive period.

"Scottish football will continue to support that collective effort and, indeed, we urge fans to comply with public health guidance and make the live match experience as safe and enjoyable as possible.

"Our clubs are well-versed in ensuring the safe access and egress of fans within the stadium footprint and we will continue to update the established protocols to reflect the Scottish Government guidance."

Rod Petrie, Scottish FA President, added: “Today’s announcement is welcome news for football fans across Scotland. The First Minister described the new guidance as the country ‘turning a corner’ in the fight to overcome COVID-19 and in particular the Omicron wave that necessitated the latest restrictions.

“In that regard, I would like to thank clubs for playing their part during the most recent restrictions and I am certain as a sport we will continue to demonstrate best practice in ensuring the safety of players, staff, spectators, match officials and everyone involved in the matchday experience.”

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