Nicola Sturgeon answers Rangers and Celtic v Hibs crowd question as Scottish football raised during Covid briefing

Nicola Sturgeon has not ruled out bringing in restrictions to Scottish football if the UK government provides funding to support such a move.

A 50,000 crowd is expected for the Premier Sports Cup final between Celtic and Hibs at Hampden on Sunday (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

The First Minister gave a Covid address to the nation at lunchtime on Friday where she reinforced the message for people to stay at home as much as possible in a bid to curtail the spread of Omicron, the new dominant strain which is spreading rapidly across the country.

When asked how this specifically relates to football, where 50,000 crowds are expected at both Ibrox on Saturday for the Scottish Premiership match between Rangers and Dundee United and Hampden on Sunday for the Premier Sports Cup final between Celtic and Hibs, Sturgeon urged supporters to consider whether they need to attend and what the impact might be on their Christmas plans.

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However, she stopped short of calling for fixtures to be cancelled or attendances to be curtailed, blaming the lack of clarity on the possibility of financial support for affected Scottish businesses from the UK treasury, which she plans to address with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Responding to whether it is wise to allow football crowds to continue to descend on stadiums in large numbers, Sturgeon said: "My advice to people right now, and I can't be clearer about this, is please limit your social interactions, wherever your social interactions would normally be. Limit them as much as you can right now.

"I'm not doing this lightly after two years of this. I'm asking people in the run up to Christmas to stay at home as much as they can, and much more than people would normally be doing at this time of year.

"Had we the financial support mechanisms that were in place earlier in the pandemic I would be more able perhaps to give straightforward advice to events to say don't have these events go ahead right now. I can't do that when I can't compensate people.

"We need to get these financial mechanisms in place so that across the UK we can take the steps that we think are necessary. All I can do right now is ask people to modify their own behaviour, but that also has an impact on businesses, which is why we still need that financial support in place."

Scotland's Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith echoed Sturgeon's warnings and urged supporters to take extra precautions when travelling to matches this weekend.

He said: "We can reduce the risk by making sure we are testing any time we come into contact with others, and people who decide to go to the football over the course of the weekend, whether they've been vaccinated or not, I would encourage them very, very strongly to make sure they are taking lateral flow tests before they go.

"Please, if you're symptomatic at all, don't go to the football. Don't risk spreading it to others. Don't risk spreading it among the coaches or cars you'll be in going to the game. Because if there is someone with that infection on board the coach it's very likely that others on board will contract it as well. Just think about the impact you can have on others and how you can safeguard it.”

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