Northern Ireland’s supporters return highlights Scottish Gov’s mismanagement of football fans

SIX HUNDRED fans were allowed into Windsor Park last night to watch Northern Ireland beaten by Austria. The ‘lucky’ supporters were balloted for the chance to watch football in the flesh and they made their way to the Belfast stadium knowing they wouldn’t be able to come out of the ballot for the Euros play-off final next month. Austria won thanks to a goal from Michael Gregoritsch but the supporters enjoyed being back to the football.

However, when you realise that Windsor Park holds a tiny 18,500 it begins to reflect poorly on the Scottish Government that Celtic Park (or Hampden or Ibrox) haven’t allowed to play host to any supporters. The strict conditions for spectating are apparent, clubs in Scotland and around Europe have adopted them.

One way systems, social distancing masks on at all times and staggered entry/exit – methods to control interactions in pubs, restaurants, shops and supermarkets and no different to watching the football. 600 supporters have been into grounds this season, 300 from Aberdeen and 300 from Ross County but that has been it as the Scottish Government decided to shelve plans for an increased testing sample.

The percentage of supporters at Windsor Park was 3.24%, apply that to Celtic Park and you have 1968 supporters, safely in the stadium.

Football fans are one of many groups that are being punished as a result of the UK and Scottish Government’s failings to deal with the re-emergence of the pandemic and they are happy to continue kicking the issue into the long grass.

Fans are the lifeblood of the game, especially in Scotland. Junior teams up to Celtic will struggle if they do not have fans through the gates and spending money. This is a cause of concern in the Scottish game with many having already paid money to have planning procedures in place to protect the spectators coming to stadiums.

National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch confirmed to BBC Off the Ball that when supporters are allowed back, it will be in an incremental basis – starting with those that are closest to the stadium.

Supporters still are in the dark about when they will be allowed to return to stadiums. With pubs and restaurants shutting in the central belt, fans may be looking longingly to Germany, where clubs are being allowed to reintroduce fans.

Social distancing is still in play in Germany as they tackle the virus but Dortmund have managed to get 11,500 supporters into the ground, wearing masks and keeping their distance. It has been a gradual return, which is necessary given the volatile nature of the virus but it should surely have some influence over the decision to stop the return to football for supporters.


About Author

Born just as Celtic were stopping the Ten, Lubo98 follows Celtic home and away and helps run his local Celtic Supporters Club. He goes to all the games and is a Law Graduate. Has a particular fondness for Tom Rogic among the current Celts and both Lubo and Henrik form his earliest Celtic memories.

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