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Scottish football clubs could welcome limited crowds

Some football stadiums in Scotland could welcome fans back this month after the authorities today (Monday) implemented their five-tier system of COVID-19 restrictions.

Council areas in Scotland will be in one of five tiers dictated by the prevalence of COVID-19, with the Highlands and Moray both placed in tier 1, which permits limited crowds.

Those clubs in regions moving into tier 1 include Premiership football club Ross County, Championship club Inverness Caledonian Thistle and League 2 club Elgin City.

Scotland’s national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch said talks had begun in those regions to decide whether fans can return, but stressed in an interview with BBC Radio Scotland’s Off the Ball that the situation is “fragile still”.

He said: “We’ve already started conversations. There are two places – there’s the professional leagues but there’s also the Highland League.

“Could we find a way of getting a few fans – probably locals, not travellers, no away fans – into those environments in a safe way? I’m very hopeful we’ll be able to but the prevalence has to stay low.”

The 2020-21 Scottish Premiership season has only seen two games with fans in attendance, which were both pilot events, including Ross County’s loss to Celtic in Dingwall in September. Apart from the two test games in September, fans have not been allowed since March.

A total of 300 spectators were allowed at Aberdeen’s Scottish Premiership visit of Kilmarnock and the same number were at Ross County’s game with Celtic the same day.

Ross County’s chairman Roy MacGregor confirmed the club have asked to stage a further trial with 750 fans when Livingston visit on Friday.

However, Leitch stated that challenges still exist in reopening: “As soon as you introduce a regional approach, you have to think about travel.

“That’s the big challenge. If you go from a high prevalence area, to a low prevalence area you could potentially take the virus into that area that’s got a low prevalence.”

Elgin City chairman Graham Tatters explained how having fans return “could be a life saver”

He said, according to the BBC: “At the moment we are haemorrhaging money.

“Depending on the numbers allowed, it might be only season-ticket holders allowed in so it might not change things drastically. But if they put it at 10%, that will be well worth changing.”

Image: Gordon Hatton / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Edited for size