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St James Park to host Celtic and Rangers matches?

2 weeks ago
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The possibility of Celtic and Rangers playing matches at St James Park has now been raised.

With different Covid rules in England, Scotland and Wales, it has produced massive inconsistencies for sporting events.

This has been particularly so when it comes to England and Wales, with Welsh clubs playing in the same leagues as English ones.

So whilst the likes of Cardiff, Swansea and others can’t have any fans at home matches, they can take thousands away to games at English clubs.

Last weekend you even saw non-league Wrexham take 2,000 fans to Notts County.

As for Scotland, there is a limit currently of 500 spectators allowed at outdoor sporting events.

As a result of the Scottish Government’s decision, the Premiership clubs over the border opted to bring their three week winter break forward by a week, hoping that when matches begin again on 17 January 2022, normal capacity crowds will be allowed.

However, The Mail now report that despite the promise of a review to the current guidelines on January 17, there is still no guarantee that full capacity will open up again for the likes of Celtic and Rangers, with Nicola Sturgeon stating this (see below) only yesterday.

The Mail says that their information is that ‘all options, including staging games in England, will come under discussion if the Scottish Government fail to deliver emergency relief in the coming days.’

Nicola Sturgeon had announced an additional £5m in emergency funding for sport in Scotland but so far nobody, including football clubs, have been told how much support each will get.

The Mail stating ‘Scottish football chiefs will consider moving games to England if restrictions limiting the number of fans to 500 remain in place.’

What is happening with Welsh clubs and their fans able to travel in numbers to away games in England but not able to watch home matches is mad enough.

However, the idea of St James Park (by some distance the closest English Premier League stadium for Celtic and Rangers, or indeed any other Scottish Premiership club) or any other stadium in England hosting Celtic and Rangers matches with tens of thousands of people crossing over the border and from numerous other places, would be just madness. Doing absolutely the extreme opposite of trying to deal with and limit the spread / impact of Covid on the population.

You can also imagine the response of Northumbria Police to the challenge of hosting 50,000 fans of Celtic and Rangers and other clubs from the Scottish Premier.

St James Park has also previously hosted Rugby Union matches, so the potential of Tyneside hosting the Scotland v England Calcutta Cup clash on 5 February 2022 could also be something that would be considered if things don’t change.

My take on all of this, is that the likes of Celtic and Rangers and other football (and rugby) interested parties are using the idea of moving matches south of the border as an ultimate threat to the Scottish Government, trying to force their hand into allowing capacity crowds back this month.

Looking at the fixtures, I see that in only 27 days time Celtic are due to host Rangers on Wednesday 2 February, just imagine the challenge of hosting that at St James Park or indeed anywhere else in England!

Nicola Sturgeon sked if supporters should buy tickets for major events such as football games or the forthcoming Six Nations – 5 January 2022:

“There are many things I really wish I had over the course of this pandemic and one of them is a crystal ball to be able to see into the future with certainty. I don’t say that to be facetious.

“It is really difficult, particularly at this stage of a wave of the virus, to be certain about the future. That’s why we need to monitor things on a closer-time basis.

“We have right throughout had very good discussions with the SRU (Scottish Rugby Union) about matches at Murrayfield. They have been very constructive at working with us to enable games to go ahead. I know how important clarity is for those who cater for big sporting events and not least matches at Murrayfield, so that’s very much in our minds as we take decisions.

“I hope very much we won’t have to go beyond January 17 with these restrictions. All of us, including myself, want to be able to cheer Scotland on at Murrayfield in the Six Nations.

“But I don’t do anybody any good if I try to give certainty ahead of our ability to do that. We will continue to use the data and the evidence and reach the judgments to get that clarity as soon as possible.

“I certainly do very firmly hope that these matches will go ahead, and will go ahead to crowds of supporters.”

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