National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch has said that fans will be back in stadiums for the first games of the new season. However, some issues remain regarding whether there will be social distancing or away fans when supporters make their much anticipated return to Paradise.
Speaking on his weekly slot of BBC’s Off the Ball, Professor Leitch said that the return of supporters is on track.
“With a fair wind, if the numbers keep going in the right direction, and we don’t go crazy, yes.
“I think there will be fans at the opening of the new season.
“The big unknown for now, is physical distancing. What are we going to do with physical distancing in September, or December? When you start to reduce physical distancing, you’ve got to have the virus almost eliminated in your country to make it safe.”
Celtic fans have been locked out of Paradise since March 2020 but will be hoping for a return ahead of the new season. There will be 12,000 fans at Hampden for the European Championship in early June but it is hoped that given the mass vaccination programme that is currently being rolled out across the UK, fans could be back on an increased capacity at the end of June with incremental increases until capacity is reached (in line with vaccination drives). However, Leitch said that the status of away fans is not yet clear. It may be a case that the return of away fans is postponed until it is safer to do so.
“I can imagine the start of the season being like that, to allow everybody to get used to how that works.
“To get the one-way systems working, to make sure the car parks are safe, all of that.
“If I were in charge of a club, I’d be thinking, ‘this is a big change, everybody’s coming back, we’ve got to do this correctly. First six weeks, let’s think only home fans, we know names and addresses, and then maybe some away fans from a supporters club so you all know who they are’.
“So it’s still not open ticketing like we would love, and like we all want to get back to. Over the whole season, depends what happens in the winter. The winter is a little bit of an unknown in terms of the virus.
“We’ll probably need more vaccinations and have a little bit of a surge with the virus globally.
“But I can imagine a scenario in which we start with home fans, move to away fans who we know, and later in the season maybe you start to get that open access for everybody.”
The support have sorely missed being at games both home and away and the players have evidently missed having the fans there. It is cliched but the added edge that Celtic have on the back of the roaring support is phenomenal and it will be emotional for a lot of people when they return to Paradise.