Nicola Sturgeon answers Scotland v England Murrayfield crowd question with Celtic v Rangers implications

Nicola Sturgeon “firmly hopes” Scotland’s Six Nations matches at Murrayfield next month will go ahead with crowds – but wouldn’t be drawn into a guarantee of restrictions lifting.

Scottish fans filled Murrayfield in November for the Autumn Nations Series games.(Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Scottish fans filled Murrayfield in November for the Autumn Nations Series games.(Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The First Minister confirmed limits of 500 outdoor spectators would remain in place until January 17 as planned but, in revealing constructive talks with the Scottish Rugby Union had taken place with a view to the Six Nations kick-off with England on February 5, Ms Sturgeon asserted she hoped “very much we won’t have to go beyond the 17th of January with these restrictions”.

The curbs led to football clubs in the cinch Premiership bringing forward their winter break in the hope of larger crowd allowances beyond the middle of January. The traditional derby matches in Glasgow and Edinburgh were moved into February with the Celtic v Rangers Old Firm clash scheduled for February 2, a day after Hibs and Hearts are due to meet at Easter Road.

Answering Conservative north-east MSP Maurice Golden’s question on the ability of fans and hospitality venues to make arrangements for the rugby matches next month, she said discussions with the SRU would be “very much in mind” when decisions were taken.

Police segregate between the supporters during the Ladbrokes Premier match between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox Stadium, on September 1, 2019, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

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She told the Scottish Parliament, via video-link: “It is really difficult particularly at this stage of a phase of a wave of the virus to be certain about the future, that's why we need to monitor things on a closer time basis but we have had, right the way through, very good discussion with the SRU about matches at Murrayfield.

"They have been very, very constructive in working with us to enable games to go ahead.

“I know how important clarity is for those who cater for big sporting events and not least matches at Murrayfield so it is very much in a mind when we make decisions. I hope very much we won't have to go beyond the 17th of January with these restrictions.

"All of us, including myself, want to be able to cheer Scotland on at Murrayfield in the Six Nations but I don't do anyone any good if I try to give certainty ahead of our ability to do that – but we will continue to use the data, use the evidence to reach the judgements that get the clarity and certainty as quickly as possible.

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"I do very firmly hope that these matches will go ahead and go ahead to crowds of supporters.”

Ms Sturgeon also announced £5m funding support to be attributed to sport clubs missing out most from the limits which also restrict professional teams with indoor venues like ice hockey and basketball to crowds of just 200.

"We are working with sportScotland and, as quickly as possible, with for example ice hockey and basketball clubs as well as football, rugby and horse racing to determine fully the financial impact the current measures are having. We will then, following that, get the money to clubs as quickly as possible.

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“Some sports will have the ability to recoup these losses as events start to be rescheduled, hopefully in the not too distant future, but for others it will be more difficult so we need to make sure we are getting the money where it is needed most.”

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