Celtic v Hibs 'considered for test event' as talks continue over Scottish Premiership pilot matches

Negotiations ongoing regarding small numbers of fans attending Scottish ‘pilot' games

Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 11:35 am
David Gray and Paul Hanlon keep tabs on Patryk Klimala during the pre-season friendly between Celtic and Hibs at Celtic Park

The match between Celtic and Hibs later this month could be used as test event for the return of crowds to football stadia.

Aberdeen and Ross County both carried out similar pilot games last weekend, with 300 Dons season ticket-holders and 300 Staggies fans attending their team’s matches against Kilmarnock and Celtic respectively.

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No pilot events are scheduled for this week, but reports suggest the Scottish Government and the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) are locked in talks over plans to stage further test matches on the weekend of September 26/27, when Hibs face the Premiership champions at Celtic Park.

Only a small number of home fans would be permitted to attend if the green light is given.

October 5 was pencilled in as a potential date for fans to return to stadiums in small numbers, but teams could be without capacity crowds for quite some time.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scotland’s National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch have both hinted that larger attendances are still some way off.

Speaking on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said: “We paused moves to have spectators back last week as part of our overall pause in the route back given the recent rise in cases.

"We will review that again when it comes to the next review point.

“Many countries are now pulling back again on attendances at big sporting events. That’s just the nature of what we are dealing with.

"I wouldn’t say having some positive cases – which is a sign that the regime in football is working to identify and isolate cases – would necessarily be the deciding factor.

“It would be one of many factors, not least the overall situation.

Professor Leitch added: “Individual players getting positive cases through no rule breaches doesn’t seem to me to affect [the return of fans to stadiums].

“What does, is the increased prevalence of the virus in the community. That definitely affects that trajectory so we’ll have to be very, very careful.”

Professor Leitch is also expecting a report on the test events at Aberdeen and Ross County.

He said: “Early indications are they went very well. That will help us make choices as we advise the First Minister on the return of crowds.”

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