At the time of writing this – and things are moving fast – Celtic will still be going to Ibrox next weekend for their next SPL match. But it is increasingly likely that our team will be going there to play in front of empty stands.
Today’s coronavirus developments have been pretty shocking from a football point of view.
Serie A games were played in front of empty stands, and the Minister for Sport suggested that they should be abandoned altogether for a while. Italy is the worst hit country in Europe; this thing is routing containment efforts in the north of the country and it has killed a lot of people.
The government there has resorted to the kind of measures I fear are coming to us.
The French government has just banned gatherings of over 1000 people. It is not difficult to see that this will have a major impact on football. They have a relatively small number of cases in France; that has not prevented the authorities from acting resolutely.
I wrote last week about how the season might be cancelled if things get worse.
Before that happens, games will be played behind closed doors. That’s coming. It is certain. The German government will probably take a similar decision to that which has happened in France and Italy, and Boris Johnson’s people are meeting the broadcasters and the leagues tomorrow … they are reluctant but public safety comes first here.
It makes perfect sense to do this now whilst the number of cases is relatively small. The longer this country waits before taking decisive measures, the worse this will be, the longer it will last and the more people will die. It’s that simple.
Things here are moving quickly. I don’t think we’re going to get through the week before something drastic has to be implemented.
It is responsible leadership, and I know how rare that is for London. It may even be that The Scottish Government acts first; under certain emergency powers it has the legal authority to do it. They have a certain amount of latitude already.
I know a lot of people will be disappointed if there are no fans at Sunday’s game. I know too that Sevconia will trip all the way out, especially as there’s already an understanding that we’ll be awarded the league title if the season doesn’t finish.
But this is not a conspiracy. This is about the welfare of the population and the health of the country. Those things trump any hard feelings at Ibrox. Other countries are already way ahead of us here and as we’re not the first nor will we be the last.
Things cannot continue as they are here in the UK and elsewhere.
It’s as if huge parts of the world are still in denial about the possible seriousness of this. Those illusions are about to be shattered. By the time the weekend comes around we could be in a different reality. Having no fans at the Ibrox game will seem small compared to that.