Deputy First Minister John Swinney has tried to provide ‘clarity’ on the reasons behind limiting Scottish football attendances to 500 as Covid cases ries – and his justification just comes across as another slap in the face to fans across the country.
After being asked at the Covid-19 Recovery Committee how the number of 500 was arrived at, Swinney doubled down and said it was to send a “very clear signal” over public interactions.
From Boxing Day, standing indoor events will be limited to 100 people, seated events will be 200 people and outdoor events will be capped at 500 regardless of the size of venue, however, the rules will not apply for weddings.
John Swinney had previously claimed last weekend’s League Cup final could be a ‘super spreader’ event – in stark contrast to national clinical director Jason Leitch’s comments about the virus not liking the cold and wind at Hampden in December.
“I think the key point here is that we’ve got to take decisions based on making sure such judgments are effective,” Swinney said.
“For example, we have a multiple range of options about outside venues, let’s for example, take the model Mr Mason has put to me of a variation reflecting stadium size and stadium facility.
“I think we lose clarity of messaging, which is a blunt one.
“I make no apology for being so blunt, we need to quite simply reduce the degree to which people are interacting.
“A total of 500 as a maximum for outdoor events gives a very clear signal to people in the country that we have to reduce that interaction.
“So for example a crowd of 500 at a Rangers game compared to a crowd of 50,000 which would normally be of that order makes a very, very clear significant point that we have to reduce dramatically the level of social interaction.
“There’s a simple clarity that is necessary in that respect.”
It is only four months since Scottish football grounds were allowed to return to 100% capacity and in the months before and after fans have jumped through every single hoop asked of them.
Whether it was social distancing, reduced capacities, vaccine passports, proof of negative tests, or any other idea thrown out, we danced to their tune to try get back to something resembling normality.
But to be used to send a “very clear signal” just smacks of the same sort of sneering towards football fans that – until very recently – allowed everyone bar football fans to enjoy a beer on a train on the way to football.
You never need to scratch too hard under the surface to find the sort of ‘othering’ of football fans have become used to either.
With predictions suggesting the peak of cases caused by the Omicron variant will come late in January or early in February, you can set your watch by the regulations being changed to allow the rugby crowd in to enjoy the Six Nations at Murrayfield (where, funnily enough, they are also allowed a beer at the game unlike football fans).
There’s no doubt that we’re ‘all in it together’ as we try get through the Covid pandemic sooner rather than later but continually using football to try up paper over other mistakes became tiresome a long time ago.
Doing it now just feels like a deliberate slap in the face.
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