Before I start this piece proper, I want to say that since the global health emergency first hit us like a hammer I’ve been exceptionally proud of the work that the Scottish Government has done to limit the potential for loss of life across the country.
Have they got every decision right? Absolutely not, but no-one could have with this going on. Broadly speaking, however, I’ve felt as if our administration cared about the people of this country and was determined to put them first, before any other consideration.
Today’s announcement from the Scottish Government, announcing that we’ll be moving to Level 0 as planned on 19 July, but with very distinct modifications from England, proves that our government continues to treat this crisis with the level of seriousness it deserves … and I am not going to complain about that, and I would never object to it.
But let’s not kid ourselves here; there are obvious causes for disappointment, and foremost amongst them is that our attendances are still capped at 2000 as we await further developments. To me, this is pretty nonsensical. I don’t want 60,000 people inside grounds until that’s much more safe than it appears to be right now, and we’re not far away from it.
The critical thing there is the vaccination rollout, which is one of the reasons I find the policies being pursued by London especially abhorrent.
A couple more months will make the difference. A couple more months of restrictions will let us get more people vaccinated, making it safer for the rest of us.
It’s really quite simple.
Some form of vaccination passport could have been instigated in the meantime and let us get closer to a return to normal without the level of risk which Westminster’s government seems to think is a pretty acceptable one.
Nevertheless, I do smart at the idea that 2000 fans is the limit at the moment, especially when Hampden recently housed six times that number. Hell, the fan-zone was allowed 3000, so for stadia to be given this paltry number for club football seems absurd.
What changed between letting Scotland fans into Hampden in such large numbers and now? An uptick in cases which would have happened anyway? No, what changed was the politics of the situation. Denying Scotland supporters the chance to watch the Euros was deemed politically unacceptable. Club football has always gotten the shitty end of the stick.
But the double standard is too clear to ignore. The clubs are quite obviously being subjected to different treatment, and this will only be highlighted when fans in Scotland have to watch English games take place amidst full stadiums.
We’re not ready for that – they are not ready for that – but Celtic Park is a big ground, holding a lot more people than most others in the UK and there’s no reason that 12,000 fans couldn’t be safely accommodated. The government needs to explain why it’s making this call.
One chink of light remains here; clubs can appeal for permission to hold larger scale events. Celtic sees the weekend’s fixture as a test case and proving ground for how our systems will work. Everyone who attends must behave themselves impeccably and follow all the club’s instructions for that one, so that we might prove that hosting bigger crowds can be accommodated.
Right now it is the politics, not the science, driving the decisions on sport. If science dictated that only 2000 should be in the grounds Hampden would not have seen the return of some many fans in the Euros. Either rules were bent for them, or we’re being subjected to different one and a different standard. Celtic shouldn’t be happy with that in any case.