Celtic call for winter break to be brought forward due to new Covid-19 restrictions

Scottish Professional Football League in talks with Sky Sports over how decision would work

The Scottish Professional Football League is locked in talks with Sky Sports amid a rising sense from top-flight clubs that a winter break, due to start on January 3rd, should be brought forward after crowd restrictions were imposed by Nicola Sturgeon.

Scotland’s first minister has implemented a blanket match attendance limit of just 500 from and including St Stephen’s Day, and would have a dramatic impact on the backdrop to the televised Old Firm match at Celtic Park on January 2nd. Hibernian are due to meet Heart of Midlothian, live on Sky, a day later in Edinburgh. Within hours of Sturgeon confirming her plans, Celtic stated they wanted matches to be rearranged.

Celtic statement read: “In light of today’s announcement regarding supporters attending matches, Celtic can confirm that it has today requested that the SPFL bring forward the scheduled winter break and reschedule the fixtures affected by the regulations announced.”

Hibs have echoed Celtic’s stance. “Every effort should be made to allow supporters to watch their team and the game they love,” the club said. Alan Burrows, the Motherwell chief executive, stated his belief that “we should start the winter break now”.

READ MORE

Whilst that is the widespread view, it is not universal. Sky’s exclusive live broadcast arrangement, as is crucial to the SPFL, means the subscription channel must agree to any switching of games. Sky provided no comment as to its position. There is also concern within the league that there is insufficient calendar leeway to reschedule multiple matches.

A fresh fixture guide must be provided by the league to clubs. Some club executives remain unconvinced stadiums will open up at even close to capacity after the initial, three-week timeframe as detailed by Sturgeon. Notably, there has been no public comment provided thus far by Rangers, who lead the Scottish Premiership.

The Aberdeen manager, Stephen Glass, whose team face Hibs on Wednesday in front of an attendance likely to reach around 15,000, questioned the timing as attached to the crowds decision.

Glass said: “The bit I don’t follow the reasoning with is, why would you say this rule is really important in three or four days’ time but not tomorrow night? I don’t see the reasoning at all and I don’t see the sense in it.”

In a statement, Aberdeen said: “These latest restrictions are likely to cost the club up to half a million pounds. The news this afternoon is a huge blow to all at Aberdeen FC and clubs across Scotland.”

With those businesses still digesting the news from the Scottish parliament, St Mirren announced they had requested the postponement of their game against Celtic on Wednesday and the Sunday trip to Rangers because of an ongoing virus outbreak.

“We have tried our utmost to fulfil the fixtures,” St Mirren said. “However, following further positive Covid cases this [Tuesday] morning we are unable to field a team for either match with a significant number of first-team players and staff unavailable.” It was subsequently reported St Mirren’s bid had been rejected. – Guardian