Hearts and Hibs fan return boost as Jason Leitch delivers full stadium hope for August

Hearts and Hibs could be playing in front of full stadiums again in the opening month of the new Scottish Premiership season.

Sunday, 27th June 2021, 1:31 pm
Updated Sunday, 27th June 2021, 2:23 pm
Easter Road was packed for the last league metting between Hibs and Hearts on March 3 last year. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Easter Road was packed for the last league metting between Hibs and Hearts on March 3 last year. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

That is according to national clinical director Jason Leitch who has confirmed that the Scottish Government's plan to lift all coronavirus restrictions on August 9 would result in no limits on crowd sizes at football matches.

It means Hearts could welcome a full house for the first time when they host Aberdeen on August 21, while Hibs could see Easter Road packed for the visit of Livingston on August 28. It would also allow for a capacity crowd for the first Edinburgh derby of the season at Tynecastle on September 11.

Such a scenario would delight fans who have been locked out of stadiums since last March, while also easing the financial burden on clubs who have had to make do without matchday income for over a year.

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Current restrictions only allow for between 500 and 2000 spectators depending on the tier level, although clubs can apply for more, as Hibs have done for the upcoming friendly with Arsenal on July 13.

While stressing that the August 9 date is "pencilled in” and dependant on the pandemic situation in Scotland, Leitch told the BBC Scotland Sunday Show that he is hopeful things can return to normal as planned.

"On August 9 the level system disappears, unless there were particular hotspots or the country didn't do what we hope it will do," he said. "Maybe vaccinations slow down for some reason, although I'm not expecting that.

"It's a little bit indicative, and then on August 9 all physical distancing is removed and the limits on event sizes are removed."

Asked if that meant crowds can return to football matches in full numbers, he replied: "They can on August 10, but we've had to learn that new word - that indicative word.

"We have given advice that with a fair wind the trajectory that we're presently on with vaccinations, remember we're vaccinating 300,000 people every 10 days, and this six weeks buys us quite a lot of vaccine time. So if we can get that in and people come, then yes we hope that August 9/10 can happen."

Pressed further on whether football stadiums would be full, he added: "Yes, but you’re making me sweat."

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