Everyone Wants Fans Back Inside The Grounds, But Celtic Needs To Be Careful On This.

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As we get closer to the start of the season, Celtic is trying hard to get fans back into grounds.

This is perfectly valid. Our club wants our supporters to have the best possible experience on match-day, and everyone at the club wants the fans there to cheer them on in this vital campaign. Empty stands are not how we envisioned the quest for ten in a row.

I understand completely what the club is attempting to do with its experiments and test runs. I get it, and so do the football authorities and the government. I know our club would not put the safety of our fans at risk. They take that stuff seriously.

We are not, as Sevco are on record as doing towards the end of last season, demanding that games be played in front of full stands. That might have been the most reckless intervention I heard made in Scotland in the course of the last five or so months.

I cannot believe they did not get criticised for it.

Celtic will not do anything which is dangerous. Celtic is not run by crazy people. But I still wonder if we are over-reaching a little bit, and trying to rush things. I understand the motivation; last week, the second the lockdown lifted enough, I took myself off for three days. You get claustrophobic sitting at home all the time, even if you’re comfortable.

A lot of people are missing Celtic Park.

The players are certainly going to miss the support.

Like I said, I understand this impulse, I understand it all too well. Nevertheless, we have to be very careful with what we’re doing. We cannot seem as if we’re trying to force the government’s hand, or shame them into getting fans into grounds quickly.

The government is doing the right thing by taking it slowly. This is about people’s safety; there are literally lives at stake here and we can’t be messing with that. The lockdown has started to lift, but this was only possible because we did it right in the first place. Everything was measured. Everything was paced. You don’t run before you can walk, and coming out of something like this has to be handled with care, and that’s what our government has done.

Scotland has a shot at eliminating this thing entirely, or at least getting to a level where the winter will not be quite as fraught as the months of February and March were. It is possible that we will dodge the dreaded second wave. We will certainly limit it.

Months on from the height of this, it’s easy to forget where we were.

I wrote about this fairly early on, before we had even suffered casualties, but it was clear what was coming. It was out there, circulating, and being spread. At the height of this hundreds of people were dying every day … I lost my uncle to this thing in May.

Do not forget what the peak of this looked and felt like. We cannot go back to that, and studies from England and elsewhere in Europe have shown that, in spite of a widespread belief to the contrary, that major sports events were real focal points for community spread.

A gradual return to grounds is possible, but even that can’t be rushed. Social distancing might be possible in the stands, but in the concourses and on the supporter’s buses or ferries and elsewhere it might not be so easy, and the government will consider it all.

Celtic needs to work with them, not against them. I thought our statement the other day was more or less on the money, but it also seemed like an attempt to get government moving in the direction we want. That’s not going to work, not with Holyrood.

And nor should it. There is more at stake here than just the wants and whims of football fans; this is a societal disaster, a national emergency, and I am pleased that we have a government which is treating it like one. Fans will be back in grounds soon enough, when it’s safe.

Nobody should want to see supporters in stadiums before then.

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