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Scottish sports fans could be back in grounds by mid-September
30 July 2020, 18:13
Scottish sports fans could be allowed back in grounds by mid-September, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The news was announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as she detailed provisional plans to move some sectors closer to normality if Scotland maintains its progress in its attempt to eliminate Covid-19.
It comes as the First Minister said local authorities could opt for a phased reopening of schools from 11 August, but she expects all pupils to be back full-time by 18 August.
But she said, "no one can rule out" needing to return to "blended" online learning in future if there is a "significant increase" in infections.
Strict hygiene measures will be in force, including ventilation and strict sanitary regimes.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Sturgeon said: "We hope that further changes will be possible from September 14. However, I must also stress again that the dates that I am about to set out are indicative, and will not be finally confirmed until nearer the time.
"For example, we hope that sports stadia will be able to reopen from that date, with limited numbers of spectators and with physical distancing in place.
"Some professional sports events might be arranged for spectators before then, with the Scottish Government's agreement, to test the safety of any new arrangements.
"We also hope that indoor sports courts for some activities can reopen from September 14, with physical distancing, and we will consider whether indoor classes for children can resume earlier than that."
Gyms and swimming pools could also open on September 14 but possibly beforehand.
The news on sports crowds was a particular boost for Scottish football 48 hours before the Premiership season kicks off.
National clinical director Jason Leitch later confirmed on social media that it was "potentially possible" for some fans to be inside Hampden for Scotland's Nations League clash with Israel on September 4 as one of the test events.
The Scottish Rugby Union is hoping for some spectators to be inside BT Murrayfield when Edinburgh play Glasgow in late August.
Celtic welcomed the development with chief executive Peter Lawwell saying: "Celtic are delighted with this positive development and are very appreciative that the government has taken this important step.
"We would like to thank the Scottish Government, the SFA/SPFL Joint Response Group and everyone at the club who have collaborated and worked so hard over these past few difficult months.
"It is our intention to get as many supporters as we can back into Celtic Park as soon as we can, within the guidance. However, the safety and security of our supporters is always our top priority, and we will communicate more on this as soon as possible."
Meanwhile, Scottish Premiership clubs have backed plans to be able to use five substitutes for league games this season, in a response to the congested fixture list following the pandemic disruption.
Clubs will be able to list up to nine subs and can halt play to make changes on three separate occasions.
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: "As excitement builds ahead of the return to competitive action this weekend, I am pleased that the Premiership clubs have approved this resolution which was recommended by the board.
"Player welfare was at the forefront of our decision to recommend this change and it is vital that we recognise the additional strain being placed on players as we embark on the 2020-21 season.
"We are preparing similar resolutions for the Scottish Championship, League 1 and League 2 and these will be distributed to the clubs in those divisions in due course."
The news came after confirmation that there was only was only one positive Covid-19 test result in Scottish football last week.
St Mirren had recorded seven positive cases from their private contractors but six of the affected backroom staff proved negative when they were tested again by the NHS.
Ultimately one positive has been recorded from July 20-26 from 715 tests on players and staff at Scottish Premiership clubs and Glasgow City, who are training for their UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-final against Wolfsburg.
The Joint Response Group requested that clubs reverted to testing their players twice-weekly instead of once following the initial St Mirren results and delays in some clubs receiving their results ahead of scheduled friendlies.