Yesterday, I said that it was time for the clubs to finally go on the offensive against the Scottish Government over the issue of fans in the grounds. Last night the backtracking began.
The politicos know that the argument in favour of these restrictions in stadiums has collapsed, firstly as a result of the briefings that took place where it was admitted that the 500 limit is an arbitrary number with no grounding in science and secondly by the relaxing of self-isolation guidelines which happened yesterday, and which had been widely expected.
Restrictions of some sort were a good idea when Omicron was discovered.
Indeed, my only argument with them was that, initially, they didn’t go far enough. In light of new information on the variant it is clear that it is not as dangerous as Delta, and may not even be as transmissible.
Vaccines offer a high degree of protection against serious illness.
The issue was going to be hospitalisations; we know the numbers are going up, but not as fast as people feared and the number of patients in the ICU’s has barely changed at all, which is the very best news we could have had short of them starting to fall.
We’re not out of the woods, but the justification for restricting football fans whilst letting everyone else go about their business was never particularly strong; now it is non-existent.
The clubs are not willing to be used as a government punching bag just so those in charge can pretend that they are taking robust action. This was the moment to make a stand.
That stance has paid off. It looks as if we’ll be back in the grounds on 17 January.
What a victory that is for Celtic and for Scottish football.
Some of Scottish football anyway.
I know that some of our lazy hacks simply wrote off the idea of fans back in stadiums as unrealistic and others didn’t want to believe it because that would have meant Celtic were right in the first place, but we never wavered. I was pretty sure that we’d done the right thing and would be vindicated for it.
At worst, our club was giving us a chance to watch our team.
They were also offering up a protection for sporting integrity, and that was an important part of the discussion.
For us to be attacked for trying to exploit the situation was laughable, especially when it came from people whose own motives were not particularly well disguised, not that they even bothered to try.
Ange’s press conferences during this spell have been brilliant, as he’s not only laughed the idea off but scorned the suggestion by telling people that he and the team would get on with whatever they had to face.
He has even swatted aside the idea that we might seek a further postponement on the grounds that some of our players would be missing from the rescheduled games.
So much for those who accuse us of running scared; that might be their fantasy, but it’s not reality.
The truth is, Celtic has had a much better understanding of all this than our rivals and some of the talking heads had.
They’ve listened to experts, considered their options and even if they weren’t 100% convinced that fans would soon be allowed in, they knew that it was worth a shot and they acted in the very best interests of the game as a whole.
Our club deserves great praise for the leadership it showed here. We are still respected, unlike the cast of the Muppet Show across the city, and when we step forward we can still move the needle, and this episode has proved it.
Our club led, and where they led the majority of the league followed.
Without our intervention, coming as quickly as it did, who was going to step up and do it?
Other clubs would have been scared to death by the exclusion of fans, and when Ibrox made its position clear, early, that could have been the end of the discussion. But we were brilliant.
Our club and the action it took has been fully vindicated.
It doesn’t matter if it affected one game or ten; we did something good and right and look certain to get our reward for it.
And without our robust action, and the sport showing that it was prepared to do its bit, and took it seriously, who knows what the final decision would have been?
We were willing to wait for information.
We were not simply willing to roll over.
We were prepared to take things seriously and help buy us all some time.
We were not simply prepared to sit and tolerate the judgement of Holyrood.
The game led, and Celtic led the game.
If fans are back for the match against Hibs we will have won a significant victory.
Our critics – and rivals – will owe us an apology we’re never going to get.