Premiership winter break will be brought forward
Games were due to be played behind closed doors (pic: SNS Group)
The Scottish Premiership winter break is to begin on Monday after being brought forward from 4 January – despite objections from Rangers and Ross County.
The move comes after a cap of 500 was put on crowds from Boxing Day in response to a surge in Covid.
The decision was made by the SPFL board after clubs were given a deadline of Wednesday at 5pm to choose one of three options – pause as planned on Tuesday, 4 January, begin the break on Monday, 27 December, or before Sunday’s games.
The change means two full fixture cards need to be rescheduled, including Celtic-Rangers, Hibs-Hearts and Dundee-Dundee United.
The top flight is set to resume on 17-18 January, with the Old Firm clash now scheduled for Parkhead on Wednesday, 2 February at 7.45pm.
Rangers were accused of acting in self-interest by opposing the change. The champions were due to go to Aberdeen and Parkhead before the original winter break and critics said it would have suited them to play those games with almost no fans in attendance.
Celtic, Hibs, Hearts and Motherwell were among the clubs calling for the earlier break, with Aberdeen wanting upcoming home games against Dundee and Rangers postponed, saying they could lose £500,000 if they went ahead.
On the clubs’ vote, SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “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.
“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.”
Discussions between the Scottish FA, the SPFL joint response group (JRG) and Holyrood are ongoing over plans to ensure any loss of income for clubs due to the new measures are compensated.
With no winter break for the lower leagues, they decided to play on.
This means the Ayrshire derby and Partick Thistle vs Morton will be played effectively behind closed doors.
Rearranged fixtures (all 7.45pm):
Monday 17 January – Celtic v Hibs.
Tuesday, 18 January – Aberdeen v Rangers; Dundee Utd v St Mirren; Hearts v St Johnstone; Livingston v Dundee; Ross County v Motherwell.
Tuesday, 1 Feb – Dundee v Dundee United; Hibs v Hearts; Livingston v St Johnstone; Ross County v Aberdeen; St Mirren v Motherwell.
Wednesday, 2 Feb – Celtic v Rangers.