LONDON (Reuters) – The Scottish Premiership’s winter break has been brought forward to start after Sunday’s fixtures to lessen the impact of ground capacities being cut to 500 because of the COVID-19 surge.
Clubs including Celtic had asked the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) to bring forward its scheduled break after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday that restrictions woud come into force for three weeks from Dec. 26.
The winter break was scheduled to begin on Jan. 4 with clubs returning to action in the Scottish Cup from Jan. 20.
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said there had been “mixed views” amongst top-flight clubs over an early shutdown, especially with so much uncertainty about the course of the pandemic owing to the Omicron variant.
“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,” he said.
“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 SPFL clubs for their clear, positive and constructive feedback as we work together to get through the challenges posed by COVID-19.”
The SPFL board had given three choices to clubs — pausing as planned on Jan. 4, begin the break on Monday or before Sunday’s games. Scotland’s lower tiers do not operate a winter break and will carry on.
Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack, who said his club could lose 500,000 pounds ($667,650) if games went ahead with attendances capped, took to Twitter to ask for the 500-limit to come into force on Dec. 27, allowing for Boxing Day games to have large crowds.
After Sunday’s games, which will have restricted crowds, the Premiership resumes on Jan 17-18 while the other round of rearranged matches will take place on Feb 1-2, including Celtic v Rangers.
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(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)