Scottish Premiership football club Ross County has been given the green light to welcome 300 fans to its game against Livingston on Friday after the government implemented their five-tier system of COVID-19 restrictions.
Due to the Highlands being a Tier 1 health board area, which permits limited crowds, the Dingwall club has been given approval by the Scottish FA, SPFL and the government to host spectators at the Global Energy Stadium.
The attendance allocation for the game at the 6,541-capacity stadium will include 300 season ticket holders who will be selected by ballot and will receive email notification from the club that they have been selected.
The club said in a statement: “Given the very short timescale we have to organise this, it will be a very difficult challenge but one we will embrace and work very hard to ensure we deliver a safe environment for our 300 fans. All fans will be housed in the East Stand and will follow the same protocols and procedures as the previous test event.”
A statement on the SPFL website said the Joint Response Group said talks remain ongoing with Championship club Inverness Caledonian Thistle and League 2 club Elgin City, which are both also in tier 1 health board areas, about bringing fans back to their grounds.
Matches in the Highland League can also host supporters under the new guidelines and their season will begin on November 28.
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “I’m sure this news will be cheered by every player, official and fan in our game. All clubs in Scotland are desperate to get fans back safely in the open air and we are very grateful to the Scottish Government for approving this crucial first step towards the return of supporters to every ground.
“All of us in the SPFL have missed the enormous difference which our passionate supporters bring to the game, not to mention the absolutely crucial matchday revenue, and everyone involved will be working flat-out to ensure that the return of fans to the Global Energy Stadium goes smoothly this Friday.”
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. Other than 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.
Ireland’s 2021 Six Nations rugby fixtures in early 2021 could be used as trial events for the return of fans to stadiums should it be deemed safe.
Ireland has two home fixtures at the 51,700-capacity Aviva Stadium in Dublin against France on February 14 and England on March 20, which could be played in front of a “limited number” of spectators, Sport Minister Jack Chambers said.
In addition, League of Ireland Premier Division football club Dundalk could see fans attend its UEFA Europa League fixtures if it qualifies from its group.
Chambers said, according to Sky Sports: “What we’ve been looking at, for example, is for the Six Nations next year. The Dundalk games potentially next year in the Europa League, you could have potentially bigger stadia.
“The aim first would be trial this at the bigger stadia and see how that goes, that we could try it out. But for level five and our epidemiological position, there won’t be fans at games.
“The intention is for levels one and two to trial and test it and get stakeholder feedback.
“If we’re in a better epidemiological position in the spring, we’ll have the guidance out and we’ll be trying particular matches for how we trial a limited number of spectators in our bigger stadia.”
Minister Chambers said a report probing how to facilitate the safe return of fans to stadiums is due shortly.
Under the current COVID-19 guidelines in Ireland, a maximum of 200 people are allowed in stadiums that hold fewer than 5,000 people. The Government is looking into what it can do to allow fans to return to larger arenas.