Covid Scotland: Hibs back calls for winter break to start on Boxing Day

Hibs and three other top flight clubs are already pushing for the winter break to be brought forward to avoid playing matches behind closed doors from Boxing Day, as talks begin over what happens next.

Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 6:08 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 8:09 pm

It comes as Neil Doncaster, the Scottish Professional Football League chief executive, described new restrictions on spectator numbers from Boxing Day as “a hammer blow to clubs and fans across the country”.

Then SPFL/Scottish FA Joint Response Group (JRG), which has handled all Covid-related issues since the pandemic began, will be holding a series of consultations with clubs about the impact of the new restrictions on spectators over the next 24 hours.

Celtic, Motherwell and St Mirren are also pushing for the winter break to be brought forward to avoid playing in front of just 500 fans, but several stakeholders, including broadcasters, would need to be satisfied and the clubs would need to vote through any firm proposal.

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Spectators will be allowed to attend Hibernian v Aberdeen at Easter Road tonight, but only 500 will be permitted for three weeks from Boxing Day

The discussions now under way follows the news that, from Boxing Day and for three weeks thereafter, football attendances will be capped at 500 people in line with all outdoor events. One metre physical distancing will also be required within a stadium during that time.

The Edinburgh derby between Hibs and Hearts is one of the fixtures affected. The Old Firm derby is another.

Hibs said in a statement: “Hibernian FC has requested that the SPFL bring forward the scheduled winter break and reschedule the affected fixtures.

“Hibernian FC completely understands that this is an incredibly difficult situation due to on-going pandemic, and with that in mind health and safety should be at the forefront of every decision, which is why the club has made this proposal to the SPFL.

“Alongside this, every effort should be made to allow supporters to watch their team and the game they love.

“The club also believes that this will protect the integrity of the competition and would save clubs from the potential loss of substantial revenue.”

Scottish Rugby has already confirmed that the Edinburgh v Glasgow double header next week, each of which could have attracted more than 20,000 fans, will now be played behind closed doors.

Musselburgh Racecourse has made the same decision in relation to its New year’s Day meeting. A 6,000 crowd was expected but ticket-holders will now be offered a refund.

Rod Petrie, chair of the JRG, said the government announcement on spectators “is a source of disappointment to hundreds of thousands of fans across the country, for whom attending football matches during the festive season has been a tradition spanning generations”.

Doncaster described the news as “a hammer blow to clubs and fans across the country, who simply could not have done more to mitigate the impact of the ongoing pandemic”.

Reacting to the crowd limits, the Scottish Football Supporters’ Association called for urgent financial support to help clubs impacted by vastly reduced income from fans.

The JRG has also said it is in discussions with the Scottish Government to ensure clubs get access to the £375m support fund highlighted by the First Minister during her Covid briefing at Holyrood.

Hibs host Aberdeen at Easter Road on Wednesday and can welcome a capacity crowd as the new limits do not take effect until Boxing Day.

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