Scottish Premiership clubs meet for talks on bringing forward winter break

Scottish Premiership clubs meet for talks on bringing forward winter break

The Old Firm match between Celtic and Rangers on January 2 is due to be played with only 500 in attendanceThe Scottish Championship, plus Leagues 1 and 2, have opted not to shut down amid the spike in Covid-19 cases.

Instead, all 30 sides will continue with crowds capped at 500 – a move that has been ratified by the SPFL board.

Premiership clubs have voted on whether the winter break should be brought forward, with a decision expected to be announced later on Wednesday.

The top-flight clubs were asked to inform the SPFL of what they would rather do by 17:00 GMT.

They have been given three options – pause as planned after 3 January, start the break after the Boxing Day fixtures, or begin the hiatus before Sunday’s games.

The SPFL board has encouraged clubs not to vote for the third option because of the few dates available to play games.

Should option two be chosen, a return to play would take place in the week beginning Monday 17 January, with a round of fixtures that midweek to make up for the postponed rounds of matches.

Dundee United have already expressed support for bringing the winter break forward, while Aberdeen want their upcoming home games with Dundee and Rangers postponed.

How will new measures impact Scottish sport?’TV not the deciding factor over winter break timing’Covid-hit St Mirren fail with postponements requestThe Scottish government announced on Tuesday that, from 26 December, outdoor sporting events in Scotland can have a maximum of 500 people in attendance.

Top-flight clubs met late on Tuesday, with the majority in favour of shifting the mid-season pause of 4-23 January to a 26 December start. However, the final decision will rest with the SPFL board.

Prior to the hastily convened meeting, which included SPFL executives, Celtic, Hibernian and Motherwell went public with their desire to move the break to try and avoid fixtures being impacted by capped capacities. Several clubs have since followed.

The new measures come amid a rise in Covid-19 Omicron cases and first minister Nicola Sturgeon said they would be implemented for three weeks.

Three full fixture cards are scheduled during the period, including New Year derbies in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee.

As things stand, the winter break is due to commence on 4 January, with Hibs the first Premiership team in Scottish Cup action on 20 January.

‘Incredibly frustrating'”Everyone at Celtic recognises the difficulties presented to society by the current pandemic and the health and safety of all must always be our priority,” said Celtic, who travel to St Johnstone before hosting Hibs and then Rangers after Wednesday’s visit to St Mirren, which is not affected by the new crowd restrictions.

“The game owes it to supporters to explore all opportunities to maximise the prospect of all supporters being able to attend matches and support the game they love.”

Motherwell chief executive Alan Burrows said the latest measures were “incredibly frustrating”, adding: “It is a serious blow for fans who have been through so much and rely on football as a method of supporting themselves mentally with some normality and release.

“We should start the winter break now, and rearrange these matches when all fans have a chance to attend at a later date when hopefully restrictions are eased.

“During that time, we put our facilities and platform at the disposal of the local health authorities to ensure as many booster vaccinations can be administered as possible.”

Hibs say bringing forward the break “will protect the integrity of the competition and would save clubs from the potential loss of substantial revenue”.

Aberdeen have estimated they stand to lose £500,000 from home games against Dundee and Rangers.

St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson said: “Obviously we want the games to go ahead as much as possible but you don’t really know the severity of Covid in three weeks’ time. That’s the only issue. We could end up being six weeks.”

As well as vastly reduced limits on crowd numbers, the first minister also confirmed one metre social distancing will be put in place.

A statement from the Scottish FA/Scottish Professional Football League Joint Response Group (JRG) did not make reference to any potential postponement of fixtures, instead saying they sympathise with clubs and supporters.

The statement also said the group are in discussion with the Scottish government to ensure any loss of income for clubs due to the new measures are compensated.

“Today’s news will be a hammer blow to clubs and fans across the country, who simply could not have done more to mitigate the impact of the ongoing pandemic,” SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said on Tuesday.

“Our clubs have adapted quickly and effectively to previous restrictions, and we will work with them in implementing the guidance from today’s announcement in the coming days.”

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