Lift ban on amateur football in Scotland, demands Richard Leonard

The ban on amateur football in Scotland should be lifted to avoid a "two-tier" approach to the game, Labour leader Richard Leonard has said.

There are growing concerns about the impact on the mental and physical health of the tens of thousands of amateur players across the country who have been unable to turn out.

Top flight football has been allowed to resume, as well as semi-professional matches involving junior clubs.

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Mr Leonard has now written to Nicola Sturgeon calling on ministers to lift the ban on the amateur game.

Richard Leonard  has written to Nicola Sturgeon
Richard Leonard has written to Nicola Sturgeon

Under existing restrictions 35,000 registered amateur players in Scotland’s Central Belt have been stopped from playing games, while professional and semi-professional football is allowed.

"Consideration should be given to finding a workable solution that allows the amateur football leagues to safely carry out games," Leonard said.

The Labour leader called on Ms Sturgeon to hold urgent talks aimed at lifting the ban with Stuart Urquhart, President of the Scottish Amateur Football Association (SAFA) who has been calling for a relaxation.

Mr Leonard added: "The current restrictions have created a two-tiered football system in Scotland, where semi-professional football teams and players are given exemptions to carry on competing in their leagues, whilst amateur teams are not.

"As I understand it semi-pro teams follow exactly the same COVID procedures as teams in the Amateur league and ‘gatherings’ are similar in size.

“Football remains Scotland’s most popular sport, it helps many people, players and fans, to focus their minds and efforts of something that provides a lot of happiness, that is why having a blanket ban does not work,” Leonard added.

A Scottish Government spokesman said the situation will remain under review.

“We recognise the benefits sport brings to physical and mental health as well as the key role sports clubs play in local communities,” he said.

“This is why, in level three areas, we have provided an exemption for under-18s to continue to play football. We understand restrictions on adult activity will be disappointing, however they are absolutely necessary to suppress the transmission of the virus in high prevalence areas.

“We will continue to review our position and provide updates when appropriate.”

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