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Fans unlikely to return to sports grounds in near future

The first minister said it was "unlikely" that an indicative date of October 5 could be met.

Fans unlikely to return to sports grounds in near future

Professional sport in Scotland will continue amid increased restrictions to curb coronavirus but the return of spectators from October 5 is “unlikely”, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The initial plans for the lifting from lockdown had involved test events and some fans returning to stadia from September 14.

That date was pushed back to October 5 but now, with widespread action being taken in a response to an increase of cases across the country, it is not expected that paying fans will be back watching live sport on that date.

After announcing a range of measures to stop the spread of the virus, Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament: “It’s important that I indicate, in light of the current situation, that the route map changes with an indicative date of October 5, are unlikely now to go ahead on that time scale.”

Test events had taken place at Edinburgh Rugby’s match against Glasgow Warriors at Murrayfield Stadium, Aberdeen’s Premiership game against Kilmarnock at Pittodrie and Ross County’s game against Celtic at the Global Energy Stadium in Dingwall. Plans were also in place to admit some supporters to golf’s Scottish Open event but it is unclear if this will go ahead.

The announcement that the October 5 target is unlikely to be met will cause concern across Scottish sport with a number of high profile events in the near future. Amongst others, the Scotland national football team have matches at Hampden, while the Scottish Cup semi-finals and final are also scheduled to take place at the national stadium.

Scottish Rugby has autumn tests in the calendar to be played in October and November. Premiership football will continue but major games including the Old Firm derby between Celtic and Rangers on October 17 will continue to be played behind closed doors.

The lower leagues of the SPFL are set to return in October, as is the SWPL and there had been hopes that paying customers would be back by then.

Instead, clubs across Scotland will be considering the financial implications after a long stretch without matchday income. There have already been warnings that some would face serious problems in continuing without ticket sales and other revenue from supporters at games.