SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster warned that there is no more room for maneuver after the winter break was brought forward in light of new restrictions on sporting events in Scotland.
Ten of the 12 Premiership clubs voted in favor of the start of the winter break immediately after the Scottish government limited the crowds to 500 outdoor events for up to three weeks.
However, that proposal was ruled out by the Scottish Professional Football League board as there was simply not enough room in an already congested match schedule.
Instead, the Boxing Day matches will take place as planned in front of a limited audience with the matches on December 29 and January 2-3 postponed to January 17-18 and February 1-2, respectively.
Although Doncaster was pleased that a compromise could be reached, he issued a warning that if the restrictions were extended, clubs should prepare for the prospect of playing further games with a limited audience.
“It’s been a bad week for Scottish football in terms of restrictions, but a good week in terms of the democratic process and the league’s ability to respond to club demands,” Doncaster said. Sky Sports News.
“There was an overwhelming vision that there should be postponements with most of the clubs wanting to postpone all three holiday games.
“But we only have two seats available before the division of the championship, so the compromise of playing in Boxing Day but postponing the matches on December 29 and New Year’s was the right approach to take.
“We know it creates trouble with congestion, but the responsible thing in the council was to listen to the majority and respond.
“I am satisfied with the compromise proposed, but now it means that there is no more space to delay games: we have used the two available slots that exist and there is simply no more space.”
‘SPFL will receive financial support’
The Scottish government’s decision to limit crowds to just 500 has left many, including Doncaster, frustrated when many stadiums can safely accommodate far more fans.
However, the SPFL chief executive remains positive that the crowds will return in full force and confirmed that the Scottish government had already promised financial support to those affected.
“The situation has been and continues to be crippling for SPFL clubs, so it is vital that we get as much financial support as possible from the Scottish Government in light of these restrictions,” Doncaster added.
“We have been told very clearly that there will be support and I think the Scottish Government understands how critical finances are in Scottish football and how important it is to get as much funding as possible, as quickly as possible.
“In the meantime, we must make the most of the situation and continue to liaise with the Scottish government to hopefully return as soon as possible.”
Boxing Day Games – as scheduled
- St Johnstone vs Celtic (live on Sky Sports) – 12.30pm
- Aberdeen vs Dundee – 15:00
- Dundee United vs Hibernian – 15:00
- Hearts vs Ross County – 3pm
- Motherwell vs Livingston – 15:00
- Rangers vs St Mirren – 15:00
When will the postponed Premiership matches take place
Matches that were supposed to be played on 29 December and 2-3 January have been postponed, including the Old Firm, Edinburgh and Dundee derbies, and will now take place on the following dates, in both parts of the Scottish Cup fourth round:
Monday 17th January
- Celtic vs Hibernian – 7.45pm
Tuesday 18th January
- Aberdeen vs Rangers (live on Sky Sports) – 7.45pm
- Dundee United vs St Mirren – 7.45pm
- Heart of Midlothian vs St Johnstone – 7.45pm
- Livingston vs Dundee – 7.45pm
- Ross County vs Motherwell – 7.45pm
Tuesday 1st February
- Dundee vs Dundee United – 7.45pm
- Hibernian vs Heart of Midlothian (live on Sky Sports) – 7.45pm
- Livingston vs St Johnstone – 7.45pm
- Ross County vs Aberdeen – 7.45pm
- St Mirren vs Motherwell – 7.45pm
Wednesday 2 February
- Celtic vs Rangers (live on Sky Sports) – 7.45pm
“No guarantee on restrictions”
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care Humza Yousaf was asked about the new restrictions that will come into effect in Scotland starting on Boxing Day and has promised to review crowd restrictions over the next three weeks.
“What I have learned over the past 20 months is that it is very difficult to give guarantees in the midst of a pandemic, especially when you are at the foot of a wave of a new variant,” said Yousaf.
“The prime minister has said ‘up to three weeks’ and we will review it regularly over those three weeks.
“But I can give you an absolute promise that the government is not pleased to carry out protective measures and we will not keep them in place for a minute longer than they should be.”