Coronavirus heroes in the emergency services should be given free tickets to Scotland’s games in the delayed Euro 2020 championship, Labour’s Richard Leonard suggested.
The Scottish Labour leader said giving away tickets to games in Scotland’s group to NHS workers, carers and paramedics would be a “wonderful way of saying ‘thank you’” to them for their efforts during the pandemic.
Such a move would have to be dependent on coronavirus restrictions being eased to allow fans to attend matches at the tournament safely, Leonard stressed.
The Scottish men’s side clinched a place at their first major tournament for more than two decades after beating Serbia on penalties last year.
The national team are now due to play England at Wembley as part of Euro 2020, as well as taking on Croatia and the Czech Republic at Hampden.
Leonard said a “substantial share” of Scotland’s ticket allocation for games should be reserved for key workers who risked their lives to help others during the pandemic.
And he called on the authorities, including the Scottish and English football associations, and the two governments at Holyrood and Westminster, to try to make it happen.
Leonard said free admission should be given to as many emergency workers who want tickets, staggered over Scotland’s three Euro fixtures on a rota basis.
But he added that if demand for free tickets could not be fully met, a ballot could be held to allocate thousands of seats at Hampden and Wembley.
The Scottish Labour leader said: “Euro 2020 will be a marvellous celebration of top-class international football.
“It’s also the more momentous because of Scotland’s qualification, which will give a huge buzz to the nation and create intense interest in the progress of the national side.
“Scotland’s participation in this glorious festival of football, will be ever more the sweeter after the tragedies and hardships we have endured during the pandemic.
“Giving free match tickets for Scotland’s games to the key workers in the NHS care homes, emergency services and others who selflessly brought food and provisions to the vulnerable, would be a wonderful way of saying ‘thank you’.”
Leonard continued: “The football leagues and authorities, the broadcasters, as well as the Scottish and UK governments, should work together so that thousands of tickets are reserved for these Covid heroes.
“Obviously, this has to be dependent on safety and Covid rules, but the development of vaccines and the substantial capacities of Hampden and Wembley, hopefully make it realistic and deliverable.
“I’d like all emergency workers who want tickets to be accommodated, but if there are issues there could be allocations for different groups for the three games so that no-one is left out, or even a ballot.
“However, the important thing is that we establish the principle of making sure that we give our Covid heroes the chance to enjoy live football at Euro 2020.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We all owe a huge amount to our health and care workers for their efforts and sacrifices throughout the pandemic.
“They have been – and continue to be – on the very front line of this crisis, helping to save lives and to protect us all.
“This is precisely why we are paying every NHS and social care worker £500 pro-rata as a straightforward and tangible thank you for their hard work, which recipients are free to spend as they wish.
“We are working closely with our event partners in Scotland and UEFA on preparation for the matches at Hampden this summer.
“All 12 host cities and UEFA are considering a range of operational scenarios in response to the Covid pandemic, including in relation to spectators and ticketing, to ensure the matches are played in a safe environment.
“Ticketing for Euro 2020 is managed centrally by UEFA.”