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Football fans urged to avoid matches before new rules imposed

Scottish Professional Football League expected to make statement imminently on whether to bring forward winter break.

Football fans urged to avoid matches before new rules imposed SNS Group

Fans planning to attend football games on Wednesday are being urged to stay at home, as new Covid rules limiting the size of crowds don’t come into effect until Boxing Day.

Deputy first minister John Swinney said the cancellation of games is a matter for the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL).

Three matches are scheduled to take place in the Scottish Premiership on Wednesday evening – St Mirren v Celtic in Paisley, Hibs v Aberdeen at Easter Road and St Johnstone v Ross County in Perth.

But Swinney says people should adhere to the latest Scottish Government guidance to restrict social interactions in the run-up to Christmas Day amid rising infections of the Omicron variant.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday morning, Swinney said: “Our guidance to people is basically to restrict their social interaction – to stay at home more than they would do so.

“I would encourage people to do exactly that.

“There are clearly dangers of people travelling to football matches, because they’re going to be going on to multiple forms of transport, they will be car-sharing, they may well be using supporters’ buses and all the rest of it.

“These are opportunities for the virus to spread and we know that the Omicron variant spreads much more aggressively than is the case (with other variants).

“If people want to protect their community then I would encourage them to follow the guidance that we have set, which is to stay at home and restrict their social interaction.”

Restrictions being reimposed for large events means just 500 fans will be able to attend games after Boxing Day.

And doubts were cast on whether some festive fixtures would go ahead at all.

St Mirren made a request to the SPFL to have their next two matches – against Celtic on Wednesday night and Rangers on Boxing Day – postponed after a Covid outbreak at the club.

The match will go ahead as scheduled, however, as the SPFL said it will only sanction a postponement if a team has less than 13 players available

The Premiership is due to shut down for three weeks following the clash between Hibs and Hearts on January 3 with top-flight teams returning to Scottish Cup action in the fourth weekend of the year.

Talks on an accelerated winter break would have to include broadcaster Sky Sports, while the SPFL needs to find wriggle room in an already-crowded fixture schedule if the festive games are postponed.

Livingston manager David Martindale on Wednesday called for player welfare as well as fan concerns to be taken into account after confirming the West Lothian side were among 10 out of 12 clubs who are in favour of starting the cinch Premiership winter break early.

A statement from Motherwell said a decision on whether to proceed with the post-Christmas fixture list was expected to be made by the SPFL board later on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Swinney said on Tuesday he regrets that curbs on large events were not brought in earlier, adding that the Premier Sports Cup final on Sunday between Celtic and Hibernian at Hampden could have been a “super-spreader” event – although the level of transmission between fans is not yet clear.

Teams in the Scottish top flight are pushing to bring forward the scheduled winter break, which would postpone matches due to be played while restrictions are in place.

On Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a further £200m will be found from the Scottish Government budget before the end of this financial year to support businesses hit by the latest restrictions.