Protests expected as Scotland face Israel at empty Hampden 

The European Championships qualifier in Glasgow is being played behind closed doors due to security concerns.

Euro 2025: Preview of Scotland v Israel clash to be played behind closed doors at Hampden Park in Glasgow SNS Group

Scotland aim to take another step towards Euro 2025 on Friday night when they host Israel at Hampden in the first of a qualifying double header.

Pedro Martinez Losa’s side have four points from their opening two qualifiers after defeating Slovakia in Glasgow and drawing in Serbia.

But with the visiting nation currently at war with the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza, football matters have taken a back seat in the build-up to the match.

Controversy ahead of game

A victory over Israel on Friday would see Scotland all but clinch a playoff place with three qualifying games remaining.

But their chances of reaching the finals in Switzerland next summer have been somewhat overshadowed by issues away from the field.

With the ongoing conflict in the Middle East showing no signs of abating, the visit of an Israeli team to Glasgow has caused discontent in some quarters.

As a result, a decision has been made to play Friday night’s game behind closed doors amid fears it could be disrupted by protesters.

A decision was reached following updated intelligence and “extensive security consultations” with key parties involved.

A statement from the Scottish Football Association read: “Due to updated intelligence and following extensive security consultations with all key parties, the Scottish FA regrets to confirm that the forthcoming qualifier between Scotland and Israel at Hampden Park on May 31 will now be played behind closed doors.

“The stadium operations team were alerted to the potential for planned disruptions to the match and as a consequence we have no option but to play the match without supporters in attendance.

“Measures are in place to provide an automatic and full refund to those supporters who have already purchased tickets for this match.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused by the decision but the safety of supporters, players, team staff and officials is of paramount importance.”

The head of communications for the Israeli FA has told STV News the decision to play the match behind closed doors was made by the Scottish Football Association, saying they have full confidence in the governing body.

UEFA has decided that all of Israel’s home games, including against Scotland next Tuesday, will be played in Hungary due to security concerns.

Protests against Israel

Campaigners and charities, including Show Israel the Red Card and Scottish Friends of Palestine, have hit out at the SFA over the decision to host the fixture.

Protesters say the game is an attempt to “sportswash war crimes committed by the Israeli state” and that the move to hold the game behind closed doors is “an attempt to gag fans and avoid confronting the reality of the horrors of the war being waged on Palestinians”.

They have also used the expulsion of Russian sides from UEFA tournaments in recent seasons as an example of the kind of action they believe should be taken.

Maree Shepherd of Show Israel the Red Card, a campaign calling on Israel to be suspended from UEFA and FIFA, said: “By allowing the match to go ahead, the SFA has chosen not to hold Israel to account for its war crimes and to effectively side with genocide.

“Even after months of carpet-bombing Gaza and denying starving Palestinians access to food and water and as Israeli tanks advance into Rafah where around 1.5 million Palestinians are sheltering, the SFA sees no problem with Israel competing.

“Instead, it has chosen to go even further in its quest to protect Israel from criticism by playing the game behind closed doors, penalising both players and spectators.

“The double standards could not be starker when you consider that following its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has not been allowed to compete and remains barred from all football federations.”

Police plans in place

Police say plans are in place to maintain public safety and minimise disruption caused by any potential protests at Hampden on Friday.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We are aware of the upcoming fixture scheduled between Scotland Women and Israel Women at Hampden on Friday, May 31, 2024.

“Appropriate policing plans are in place to maintain public safety and minimise any disruption to the community.”

Euro 2025 qualification

The top three teams in the group will qualify for the play-offs while the side at the top will be promoted to League A for the next Nations League campaign and the bottom side will be relegated to League C.

Scotland are currently in second place on four points after defeating Slovakia 1-0 and drawing 0-0 with Serbia.

Israel need to win at least one of their matches against Scotland to keep alive any realistic hopes of reaching the playoff stage.

They have lost their opening two games, with defeats at home to Serbia and away to Slovakia.

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