Aberdeen FC have accused the Scottish Government of treating fans unfairly over the return to stadiums and asked for a proper explanation of why football is treated differently to other entertainment venues.
The club successfully hosted a test event for 300 fans back in September but have seen repeated requests to hold further tests denied. Last week, a detailed plan to allow 1000 fans to watch a Premiership match against Ross County was denied, leaving Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack questioning the reasoning behind the decision.
Cormack has now issued a statement to fans assuring them he will not be “fobbed off” and saying that the government has not provided any robust evidence or explanation.
Cormack said: “It’s now very clear that Scottish football and its fans are being treated unfairly with the rejection correspondence, once again, avoiding answering the key question as to why indoor events in Level 2, with less regulation, are being favoured over the stringent, safe and highly regulated protocols we have in place at our stadium.
“We have compared the criteria in place for a range of other venues, all of which are indoors and open in Level 2, against the stringent controls at our stadium. This stark comparison reveals that fans would be far safer in an outdoor stadium, yet we are still waiting, months later, for the Scottish Government to provide any clinical evidence to support their decision.
“Any independent observer would seriously struggle to understand why the Scottish Government continues to reject our carefully-researched and detailed application. Despite the devastating financial impact of the lock-out and, encouraged by Jason Leitch, Scottish football clubs have invested considerable resources in robust operational planning to gradually readmit fans safely. At Aberdeen Football Club we’ve spent around £30,000 on putting these in place. There has been a U-turn and neither Jason Leitch nor the Scottish Government will tell us why.
“Jason Leitch himself told the SPFL and Premiership Clubs that outdoor activities were safer than indoor activities yet our successful, safe test events with 300 fans now seem pointless if there is no progression plan in place, even in Level 1. We have repeatedly asked for clarification and meetings with him and Ministers, yet our requests continue to be ignored. Surely, clubs and our fans are due an explanation as to why they’ve done a U-turn.”
The Dons chairm,an said that a survey of fans showed that the vast majority wanted to return to the stadium to watch games and would follow further precautions, including travelling in limited numbers, to make that possible.
Aberdeen also published a comparison of their own planning and precautions alongside those in England, where some fans can return, and alongside the protocols followed by cinemas, restaurants, places of worship, supermarkets and shopping centres.
Cormack’s stance was backed by Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster.
Doncaster said: “Clubs all over the country have similarly detailed plans in place to allow fans back safely and are increasingly bemused, frustrated and angry at the Scottish Government’s stance.
“Fans should gradually be allowed back under very controlled circumstances.
“The social, clinical and economic evidence is being dismissed by the Scottish Government. How can it be fair or reasonable that you can currently watch a football game in a cinema in Aberdeen, yet cannot attend a socially-distanced, carefully controlled football match outdoors in the same city?
“The fact that Scottish football fans can now see thousands of English supporters attending matches at dozens of grounds down south is rubbing salt in the wounds.”