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Big sporting events not in danger amid tighter Covid-19 restrictions

It comes amidst concern over a rise in cases of the Omicron variant.

Big sporting events not in danger amid tighter Covid-19 restrictions SNS Group

Big Scottish sporting events are not under scrutiny amid tighter coronavirus restrictions.

Deputy first minister John Swinney confirmed curbs on crowds at football games were not among measures being prepared.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier told MSPs that her government would be asking businesses to step up protections against transmission of the faster-spreading Omicron variant.

Guidance will be issued this week making clear what that would mean for different sectors.

When asked on BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime programme whether football matches such as Sunday’s Premier Sports Cup final were under scrutiny, Swinney said: “Not at this stage and I am hopeful they will not be under scrutiny.

“Obviously these football games are outdoor games and what we would ask people to do is exercise additional caution, certainly to test before they go out; to wear face coverings even outside, that will help, and I would encourage many people to do so; to take care in congested environments when big crowds are involved.

“We will be in dialogue with the football clubs about stewarding arrangements to make sure that we are restoring some of the routes that individuals would take in and out of sporting stadiums.”

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou earlier stressed how big a blow limits on crowds could be.

“As much as we like to think football is the be-all and end-all, you want public health to be the priority and this football club has always followed the guidelines,” he said.

“But we have seen this year the difference in having fans and, for the people who experienced it without fans, it’s a different beast altogether. The game changes. I really believe that, the way the players play, the intensity of games, changes without crowds there.”

There is still scope for disruption with Covid outbreaks at the likes of Airdrie, Tottenham and Manchester United causing postponements in recent days.

“It’s always a concern,” Postecoglou said.

“I think maybe the general public at some point got fairly relaxed about it in terms of life being normal but we haven’t really changed our processes since I got in the building.

“We have been really vigilant in following all the protocols.

“We know it’s a constant, we know it can happen any time. It’s affected a couple of Premier League clubs now and I’d assume those clubs are doing the same things as other Premier League clubs are doing.

“It’s not like you can bulletproof yourself. You can do everything right and it can still impact you.

“All of us are hopeful we get through this period unscathed.”

St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson explained that his club have had to take into consideration which players are unvaccinated when arranging a seating plan for travel to away matches.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Rangers, he said: “I just make sure, especially the ones who are not vaccinated, are distanced correctly and that type of thing.

“The vaccinated ones obviously have a better chance of not getting it and staying healthy and being available for games, so it’s just those type of things we’ve had to tweak.

“I’ve been doing my bus plan, making sure everyone’s in the right seat so nobody can pass it on and the unvaccinated ones are safe. With the size of squad we’ve got, it’s really important we try and keep everybody safe.”

St Johnstone suffered major disruption in the build-up to their Scottish Cup final win last season.

“It really worries me,” Davidson added.

“You look down in England and big teams are really suffering from it. We’ll try and remain as safe as we can, as we have done over the past 18 months, but it’s a worrying time because we know anybody can get it.

“That’s the biggest concern, especially over the festive period, when we’ve crammed loads of games in.

“I’m not so worried about football getting stopped. I’m more worried about the increase in the number of cases and people going to hospital.

“On the football side, the players and clubs can only do our best. It’s going to be hard when it comes round to Christmas and family time, but we just need to keep testing and try to limit the number of cases we get.”