As the season nears completion, a number of issues affecting fans have featured prominently in media reports over the last week.
Firstly, this Saturday’s SPFL matches and Scottish Cup fourth round matches have been rescheduled to avoid a clash with Prince Philip’s funeral at 3pm on Saturday afternoon. Despite matches being played behind closed doors currently, football is still an important part of the weekend routine for many of us – and with an already busy schedule of matches these fixture changes will impact some clubs more than others (particularly Montrose who will now play two away fixtures in less than 48 hours, as highlighted by TheTwoPointOne earlier today). While we acknowledge that many other sports have also rescheduled Saturday’s events, there was no call from fans to reschedule these fixtures, and we were not included in the stakeholder consultation which reportedly took place over recent days.
Looking ahead to the Scottish Cup final, which will be played five days after the restriction on fans attending matches is lifted by the Scottish Government, we have asked whether any consideration is being given to a change of venue. This match is currently due to be played behind closed doors at Hampden, which will temporarily be a UEFA venue as preparations are being made for Euro 2020. Our position regarding the return of supporters to matches is that this should happen as soon as it is safe to do so, and believe that the easing of restrictions in May should make this a possibility. The SFA working groups we contributed to last summer developed blue prints for the resumption of training, competition and supporting, and the first two of these have been implemented successfully. We would love to see the third of these put into practice for the showpiece finale of our domestic season!
The news we had hoped to hear for months – that fans will be allowed into Hampden to watch the men’s national team’s first appearance in the finals of a major tournament for 23 years – came on Friday, and we eagerly await details of how tickets will be allocated for the four games due to be held in the national stadium. It was evident in Scotland’s recent away fixture in Israel, with 5000 fans present, that the home team were lifted by their fans’ presence and support. With only 12,000 supporters permitted to attend the Euro 2020 games we won’t have the full benefit of “The Hampden Roar”, but we hope to see 12,000 happy faces on our TV screens at each full time whistle.
Finally, this morning it has been announced that 12,500 capacity “fan park” has been proposed in Trafalgar Square. Many Scotland fans will surely be tempted to travel to London for the England vs Scotland fixture on June 18th, and we would urge everyone to think very carefully before making plans. Other than for a handful of matches, we have been locked out of football grounds for the whole of this season, and any rise in COVID infection numbers would put next season at risk – along with the health and welfare of the whole population. The eventual return to supporting will take place with carefully managed measures to protect against transmission of the virus; the risks associated with travelling to other parts of the UK are likely to be significantly higher.
Stay safe, protect yourselves, your loved ones, and your national game.