Timetable urged for return of football fans to matches

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said there should be a cross-party plan for the safe return of fans to stadiums.

Timetable urged for return of football fans to matches SNS Group
Hampden Park: Richard Leonard said there should be a cross-party plan for the safe return of fans to stadiums.

A timetable is needed for the return of spectators to live football matches, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has said.

Following a meeting with the SPFL, Leonard said there should be a cross-party plan for the safe return of fans to stadiums.

In England, fans are beginning to return to football fixtures for the first time since March.

Some 2000 spectators were at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday night to watch Arsenal play Rapid Vienna.

Leonard said there should be similar arrangements in Scotland, with a limited number of fans allowed on the terraces.

He said: “This was a positive meeting and will hopefully be a step on the way to allowing fans back into football stadiums.

“I’m grateful to the SPFL for the constructive way they have approached this and their willingness to engage with others.

“We all accept that we have to tread carefully, given the very high rates of infection and the real dangers we are still living with.

“However, this week we have seen the phased return of small groups of supporters at professional matches in some areas of England.

“Fans are the beating heart of football and matches, and stadiums simply aren’t the same without them.”

He said the return of fans in England “shows there’s a model in place” for the same to happen in Scotland.

He added: “Fans in Scotland will inevitably want to be able to cheer on their teams in the same way as their counterparts south of the border.

“The First Minister should launch a cross-party process, involving football’s stakeholders, with a view to setting out a timetable for the safe return of fans in Scotland.

“The Christmas and New Year periods are always a bumper time for football fixtures, and the absence of fans will be keenly felt in the weeks ahead.

“We should look to see if we can make progress to allow some fans back into stadiums in the New Year, if Covid safety measures can be guaranteed by clubs and the leagues.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We understand the importance of fans returning to stadiums but any decisions must be taken in the context of the restrictions in place to control coronavirus.

“Fans, in limited numbers, can attend stadiums in areas under level one and the best way to get fans back is to reduce the prevalence of the virus.

“As the First Minister confirmed to parliament this week, we will continue to engage with sporting bodies whose revenue is being impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We hope to bring our support package to fruition in the near future.”