Scottish Government imposes 500-capacity limit on sport from Boxing Day

Sports events in Scotland will be restricted to a maximum of 500 spectators for “up to three weeks”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered the update following a Cabinet meeting to discuss ways of slowing the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

New rules will kick in on Boxing Day and impact the festive football fixtures, which include top-flight derbies in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee in the first few days of 2022.

Edinburgh v Glasgow
Edinburgh and Glasgow are set to face off twice behind closed doors (Ian Rutherford/PA)

They will also affect the double-header between Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh in the United Rugby Championship.

Sturgeon said: “From December 26 inclusive, for a period of up to three weeks, we intend to place limits on the size of live public events.”

Indoor standing events will be limited to 100 spectators, indoor seated events to 200, and outdoor events to 500 people with physical distancing of one metre in place.

“This will of course make sports matches, including football, effectively spectator-free over this three-week period, a situation similar to that in Wales from Boxing Day,” the First Minister added.

Sturgeon explained the rationale behind the new limits.

“Firstly we know that the much higher transmissibility of Omicron means large gatherings have the potential to become very rapid super-spreader events, putting large numbers at risk of getting infected very quickly,” she said.

“Limiting these events helps reduce the risk of widespread transmission. It also cuts down the transmission risks associated with travel to and from these events.

“And second, and this is not an insignificant point, these large events put an additional burden on emergency services, especially the police and ambulance services.

“At a time when these services are already under severe pressure and also dealing with high staff absences, limiting large-scale events will help them focus in delivering essential services to the public.”

The cinch Premiership is due to shut down for three weeks from January 3 with top-flight teams returning to action in the Scottish Cup in the fourth weekend of the year.

The Scottish Professional Football League could decide to bring forward the winter break, especially with clubs such as St Mirren, Dundee United and St Johnstone suffering absences from self-isolation rules.

However, the clubs and league would also need to reach an agreement with Sky Sports, which is due to screen four matches before the break, including Rangers’ trip to Celtic Park.

Speaking shortly before the Scottish Government announcement, Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou said: “I don’t like football played behind closed doors. We had a season of it in Japan, I just didn’t enjoy it. It becomes a different game, a different environment for the players.

“My preference is to play with supporters in there, even if it is a reduced capacity. But we have to follow the guidelines and whatever protocols and we as a club have to accept that and get on with it.”

Callum Davidson
Callum Davidson would rather wait for fans (Andrew MIlligan/PA)

St Johnstone boss Callum Davidson would rather speed up the winter break.

“Obviously we want the games to go ahead as much as possible but personally I would rather have the supporters through the door and have a winter break,” said Davidson, who has four players self-isolating through household contacts.

“But you don’t really know the severity of Covid in three weeks’ time. That’s the only issue. We could end up being six weeks.”

Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass is in favour of delaying the matches.

“If it was played in front of very limited fans of course I would rather not play and play in front of a big crowd in those games, 100 per cent,” he said.