The top flight will now go into hibernation for three weeks after the Boxing Day fixtures, which is one week earlier than originally planned. The decision comes after fan numbers were limited to just 500 at outdoor sporting events following a surge in Covid 19 cases.
Premiership clubs were asked by the SPFL board to indicate their preference from three potential options: Start the winter break on January 3 as planned, start after Boxing Day, or start before Boxing Day.
It is understood ten clubs were in favour of bringing the break forward, with most choosing to play the Boxing Day matches and then break. That means postponing two rounds of Premiership fixtures originally scheduled for December 29 and January 2/3.
The Edinburgh derby between Hibs and Hearts, due to take place on Monday January 3, now moves to a new date on Tuesday February 1. The Glasgow derby involving Celtic and Rangers, plus the Dundee versus Dundee United fixture, have also been shifted.
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The change buys some time for clubs to assess whether the crowd limits may last longer than the initial three weeks suggested by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
The SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “We have had intense and positive discussions with all cinch SPFL clubs over the past 24 hours, since the announcement by the Scottish Government of a three-week period of restrictions on fans attending matches.
“We have advised our clubs that any postponements increase the risk of further disruption to an already highly congested fixture calendar. There are mixed views amongst cinch Premiership clubs about what to do for the best.
“However, a majority favour the postponement of fixtures to give a chance for games scheduled to be played over the festive period to be played in front of fans, once the three-week period of restrictions comes to an end.
“The SPFL Board has agreed to postpone the 29 December and New Year cinch Premiership fixture cards.
“cinch Championship, League 1 and League 2 clubs voted to continue playing through the Government restrictions and we look forward to their festive fixtures over the next fortnight.
“We would like to place on record our sincere thanks to Sky Sports and Police Scotland for their flexibility in accommodating these changes and to all cinch SPFL clubs for their clear, positive and constructive feedback as we work together to get through the challenges posed by Covid-19.”
Premiership fixtures scheduled for December 29 will move as follows:
Monday 17 January
7.45pm Celtic v Hibernian
Tuesday 18 January
7.45pm Aberdeen v Rangers (live on Sky Sports)
7.45pm Dundee United v St Mirren
7.45pm Heart of Midlothian v St Johnstone
7.45pm Livingston v Dundee
7.45pm Ross County v Motherwell
Premiership fixtures scheduled for January 2/3 will move as follows:
Tuesday 1 February
7.45pm Dundee v Dundee United
7.45pm Hibernian v Heart of Midlothian (live on Sky Sports)
7.45pm Livingston v St Johnstone
7.45pm Ross County v Aberdeen
7.45pm St Mirren v Motherwell
Wednesday 2 February
7.45pm Celtic v Rangers (live on Sky Sports)