Scottish football fans were given concrete news of a return to stadiums as rugby supporters gathered at BT Murrayfield to watch Edinburgh take on Glasgow.
Provisional plans have been drawn up for three Scottish Premiership games to host fans in pilot events on September 12 – two days before the indicative date for spectators to be allowed to return to sports stadiums in limited numbers.
About 700 Edinburgh fans were granted access to Murrayfield for the Guinness PRO14 encounter, the first sports event to be played in front of a crowd in Scotland since lockdown in mid-March.
📲ℹ️ Keep up to date with the vital matchday information ahead of tonight's derby at @BTMurrayfield.
Stay safe and enjoy the game! 👍
— Edinburgh Rugby (@EdinburghRugby) August 28, 2020
The Scottish government had turned down Celtic’s request to host a small crowd when Motherwell visit Parkhead on Sunday, stressing that the rugby test event could help provide lessons that would help football.
But the football authorities’ Joint Response Group announced that sports minister Joe FitzPatrick had confirmed that up to three pilot events could take place in the Scottish Premiership on September 12.
A statement added: “If successful, this would be part of a phased return of supporters to football stadia with incrementally increased numbers in the weeks following the initial pilot event date.
“The JRG will be liaising with Premiership clubs and the Scottish government over the next week to finalise details.”
September 12 sees Rangers host Dundee United while Celtic travel to Dingwall to take on Ross County.
Aberdeen host Kilmarnock, St Johnstone visit Motherwell, Livingston take on Hamilton in West Lothian and St Mirren face Hibernian in Paisley. Only home supporters are expected to be admitted.
Scottish Football Association president Rod Petrie said: “This is a welcome and positive development for Scottish football, as the national sport, to build on the sporting pilot taking place at BT Murrayfield this evening.
“We have already written to clubs to obtain their return to supporting plans specific to each stadium and will now follow up with those clubs able to participate in the initial pilot on 12 September.”
Sports fans back in Scottish stadium – Glasgow Warriors take early 7-0 lead over Edinburgh at Murrayfield pic.twitter.com/Zyl60LFT3O
— Gavin McCafferty (@GavinMcCafferty) August 28, 2020
Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster added: “Clubs have worked tirelessly to ensure football could return safely at the start of this month and news that fans will be allowed in, albeit in restricted numbers, within a matter of weeks is hugely encouraging.
“We look forward to liaising with government to build on the sporting pilot at BT Murrayfield and to provide the necessary support to clubs to facilitate the eagerly awaited return of fans who – now more than ever before – are the lifeblood of our game.”
Fans were spread out in the east stand at Murrayfield and asked to wear face coverings, keep two metres apart and avoid face-to-face contact with anyone from outside their household.