First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s anticipated update on the easing of lockdown restrictions in Scotland was delivered to Holyrood today – but there was no clear news for the return of lower-league football, or supporters.
Yesterday Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave hope the “turnstiles of our sports stadia will once again rotate,” while outlining his ‘route-map’ out of lockdown. Fans could be in place for the final days of the Premier League in England with up to 10,000 people, or 25 percent of ground’s capacity, potentially permitted from mid-May.
However, the future for fans in Scotland is still uncertain following the update from Nicola Sturgeon to the Scottish Parliament.
The First Minister suggested a return to tiered levels of localised restrictions could be implemented from the last week of April – a scenario which could see supporters back in limited numbers for events in the council areas with lowest restrictions. That allowed 300 fans in the Highland Council area to attend matches at Ross County’s Global Energy Stadium, the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium in Inverness and Elgin City’s Borough Briggs late last year.
Most club supporters have been locked out of grounds since last March and this season has been viewed from home via online streams when matches have taken place.
The Joint Response Group covering football in Scotland responded to the Parliamentary address and said: “The Joint Response Group notes the First Minister’s road map out of lockdown outlined at Holyrood today.
“We await further clarification from ministers in the coming days on the implications for Scottish football at all levels, including leagues and clubs currently under the Scottish FA suspension and the wider grassroots game.
“We will provide a more detailed update when ministers outline the road map for affected areas of Scottish football.
“The JRG is committed to working with government to ensure the national game is primed to return within the ‘progressive easing’ timeline announced today.”
While senior football updates were absent at Holyrood, a return for sport and fitness activities was delivered with March 15 the intended date for 12 to 17-year-olds to resume non-contact team sports. Sturgeon also confirmed non-essential retail businesses, a sector which includes gyms, could potentially restart in late April.
The Scottish Government’s strategic framework paper also included reference to ‘summer sporting events’ and a commitment to ‘continue to engage with partners and key stakeholders on the way forward, taking into account key milestones and activities such as May’s Scottish election and summer sporting events.’
Hampden is due to host four Euro 2020 matches this summer, including Scotland’s matches with Croatia and the Czech Republic. Steve Clarke’s side will also face England in June, with the prospect to the match being played in front of 10,000 fans at Wembley under the Prime Minister’s proposal to restore limited numbers of fans to grounds.