The Old Firm game between Celtic and Rangers could be cancelled next weekend if the teams cannot reassure the Scottish Government that fans will not gather in Glasgow.
Government officials want to avoid a situation like last weekend when thousands of Rangers fans celebrated their title win in the streets, openly flouting Covid restrictions.
Their actions have been widely criticised, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon describing this behaviour as “disgraceful and selfish.”
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf appeared on Good Morning Scotland today and revealed that “every option is being considered” ahead of the Old Firm game, which is scheduled for Sunday, March 21.
He said: “We are at the most critical juncture of our fight against the virus and we will not tolerate scenes like we saw last weekend.
“Therefore if I and the government cannot get absolute assurance that we won’t see a repeat of those scenes or even worse scenes, potentially ones of disorder involving groups of fans, then, of course, every option is being considered, that will include deferring the game.
“We are examining this under the coronavirus legislation and we have a wide variety of powers under this because if it’s in the interest of public health we’ve previously had the ability to stop matches being played so we will look at this.”
Rangers title celebration
The Scottish Government and Rangers have already been involved in a war of words about whether the club did enough to stop their fans gathering last weekend.
Ms Sturgeon said the club could have done more to stop it from happening, including using social media on Sunday to urge fans to go home instead of partying in the streets.
However, in a letter to the first minister, club chairman Douglas Park said he was “at a loss as to what more Rangers Football Club could have done to limit the reaction to winning our historic 55th league title”.
Clubs must ‘step up’
Mr Yousaf urged both clubs to “step up” and make sure their fans behave ahead of the Old Firm game.
He said: “Equally, if the clubs step up and communicate very clearly that every single fan should stay at home, should not go out and their respective managers, players, club ambassadors all come out with this message, if we do the same at the government and the city council, if we speak to police about a proportionate response, perhaps the game can go ahead.
On upcoming Celtic Vs Rangers match, we need clear messaging from everyone that fans must stay at home. If Police intelligence tells us, despite clear messaging, that groups of fans are going to gather to square off with each other, we need to consider if game should be postponed
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) March 12, 2021
“But if there’s intelligence to suggest that there will be public disorder, that large numbers of groups of fans will gather, then we can’t risk it and will not risk people’s health.”
A decision on whether the game will go ahead will be made early next week.
Glasgow City Council, the government and both clubs are scheduled to hold discussions today.