Scottish football taken by ‘surprise’ at vaccine passport plan

First Minister announced that vaccine passports will be needed for people attending large-scale events in Scotland.

Scottish football taken by ‘surprise’ at vaccine passport plan Ross Parker via SNS Group
Neil Doncaster anticipates difficulties in implementing vaccine passports.

Scottish football has been taken by ‘surprise’ after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined plans for the introduction of vaccine passports, the chief executive of the Scottish Professional Football League said on Wednesday.

Neil Doncaster told STV News he anticipated “huge difficulties” in putting the scheme into practice at football stadiums around the country.

The First Minister said earlier that Scots will need vaccine passports in order to enter nightclubs or attend large-scale gatherings, subject to parliament approving the plan next week.

Vaccine passports will be required for indoor live events with more than 500 people unseated and outdoor live events with more than 4000 people unseated.

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Any event attended by a crowd of more than 10,000 people will also require a vaccine passport for entry.

Doncaster said: “There’s been some discussion around the idea of Covid passports for some while but today’s announcement came rather out of the blue for us.  

“There are clearly a large number of unanswered questions, and there may be some unintended consequences.

“We don’t know how this technology is going to work, we don’t know what exemptions there may be and we don’t know quite how in practice clubs are going to be able to work with this directive. 

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“We are engaging with government and trying to get the answers to those questions as soon as we can.”

Doncaster also said there was a lot of concern among the SPFL’s member clubs.

“I think there are going to be huge difficulties in putting it into practice,” he said.

“Clearly it only affects a small number of clubs – those with crowds over 10,000 spectators in Scotland – but clearly the effects on those clubs could potentially be great. 

“You have a number of season ticket holders having bought their tickets on one basis and now suddenly being confronted with something that they may have some ethical concerns or questions about.  

“So there are lots of questions that we need answers to and there was some surprise today that it happened so quickly. 

“Through the Joint Response Group we have reached out to the Scottish Government and we’re looking forward to getting answers to those questions as soon as we can. We would certainly urge ministers to very carefully scrutinise these plans, and ensure that whatever we are asked to do can be done on the ground.”

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Announcing the plans earlier on Wednesday, Sturgeon warned it is “by no means impossible” that Scotland could see 10,000 new infections a day.

The latest data shows 6170 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded in Scotland in the past 24 hours and Sturgeon continued to urge people to get vaccinated and follow existing guidelines.

She also revealed the Scottish Government will move “quickly” to bring in the new vaccination certification scheme.

But Scottish football’s Joint Response Group (JRG) urged ministers “to carefully consider the unintended consequences of certification”.

A JRG spokesperson said: “Scottish football is committed to the ongoing collective effort to eradicate the virus and continues to adhere to the strictest protocols even after restrictions were lifted across society. 

“Indeed, on Monday the national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, gave a presentation to players and clubs on the clinical facts behind vaccination, to expedite the roll-out within the game. 

“Nonetheless, we have today raised concerns on the considerable unintended consequences of implementing a certification process without sufficient time or appropriate IT infrastructure in place. 

“We will endeavour to establish full details in the coming days but stress the need to ensure a practical and workable solution for member clubs, their staff and supporters; in particular season ticket holders who bought their tickets in good faith and on the understanding they would be allowed back into the stadium when restrictions were lifted. 

“We ask ministers to carefully consider the unintended consequences of certification, especially in such a short timeframe, and request a meeting with Scottish Government to discuss the matter and its implications for clubs prior to a parliamentary vote.”