Return of fans to Scottish sports stadiums delayed until at least 5 October

The return of fans to Scottish sports stadiums has been delayed until 5 October at the earliest, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

The previously indicated date of 14 September has been pushed back three weeks due to a rise in Covid-19 cases.

But two Scottish Premiership test events - Aberdeen v Kilmarnock and Ross County against Celtic - will go ahead on Saturday as planned.

Further possible pilots will be judged on a "case to case basis".

Up to 300 supporters will be in attendance at both Pittodrie and the Global Energy Stadium on Saturday, the first time supporters have attended Scottish football matches since March.

Last month's Pro14 meeting of Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors, with 700 spectators attending Murrayfield, is the only Scottish sport pilot event held so far.

But the prospect of welcoming back larger crowds this month is now over, with the average daily rate of coronavirus cases in the week up to yesterday having risen to 55, from just 14 six weeks ago.

Sturgeon confirmed Scotland is likely to remain in phase three of lockdown restrictions "for some time yet".

"The pandemic is at this stage accelerating again - albeit, and thankfully, from a low base and not as rapidly as it was back in March and April," the first minister said.

"We have concluded that these changes must be paused for a further three weeks. The new indicative date for their resumption is Monday 5 October.

"However, I must stress that this remains an indicative date - a final decision can only be taken nearer the time."

Scottish football's joint response group has reported that between Monday 31 August and Sunday 6 September, no positive results were recorded from 955 Covid-19 tests carried out in Premiership clubs and Championship outfit Hearts. However, St Mirren have since had a positive test for goalkeeper Jak Alnwick, leading to himself and housemate Lee Hodson, the Hamilton Academical defender, to self-isolate.

Edinburgh v Glasgow at Murrayfield was the first Scottish sporting event with fans since lockdown
Edinburgh v Glasgow at Murrayfield was the first Scottish sporting event with fans since lockdown

'We all want to get back to normal' - Brown

Celtic previously had hopes of a trial event against Motherwell dashed, and had two matches postponed after defender Boli Bolingoli broke lockdown rules, but are in line to play in front of around 300 fans in Dingwall this weekend.

Captain Scott Brown said: "It'll just be good having fans back in. It's crucial we get them back into stadiums and playing in front of them again but this is a little test for us and here's hoping it works well.

"You want to play in front of 60,000 fans and we've missed that. It's hard for us to say no if we're walking about the street and [fans are] asking for a photo or a chat. But we want things to get back to normal, everybody does, and we need to make sure we're all doing our bit."

'We still have work to do as a nation' - McInnes

Aberdeen also had matches postponed when eight of their players attended a bar against lockdown rules, but manager Derek McInnes views Saturday's test event as "a step in the right direction".

"Hopefully we can get through Saturday's test game with no dramas and that would then give everybody the confidence to increase numbers as we go along," he said.

"On the professional side of it, a lot of clubs have had their own challenges, ourselves included with that, but the clubs are doing some brilliant work to demonstrate to the government and others and supporters that we can provide that safety and security inside stadiums.

"There was cluster in Aberdeen a few weeks ago and I think I said back then there will be other areas that will feel the heat of what was happening in Aberdeen and I think there will be other areas again in the coming weeks and months ahead. We have still got a lot of work to do as a nation to show that we are dealing with this virus and I think football is part of that."

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