'Irresponsible' to allow fans into Scottish stadiums in level two areas
Joe FitzPatrick, giving evidence to the Holyrood health and sport committee on Tuesday, said the guidance would not change until the impact on the prevalence of Covid-19 caused by the relaxation of restrictions over Christmas was fully understood.
He said there was no route map indicating when more than 300 fans would be allowed into games in lower level areas and that it would “irresponsible” for areas not in level one to see fans return.
Mr FitzPatrick said: "That is something we need to look at when we get confidence that what we have put in place right now in terms of 300 and increasing clubs across the Highlands in particular is working.
"I think we certainly need to get past Christmas to see how numbers are flowing. There is obviously a concern about the relaxations that have been allowed around Christmas and to see how that impacts.
“There is a clear route map to getting fans back into stadia and that is to get to level one.”
Mr FitzPatrick said he was unconvinced at the safety of allowing more fans back, claiming the scenes in England where up to 4,000 fans were allowed back into stadia were concerning.
He said: “I watched some clips of one of the games, I think it was in London. What I saw I would be hugely worried about if I saw that in stadia in Scotland.
"What I saw was, at the start of the game, yes fans were well socially distanced, being really careful, but when the game became exciting … it becomes really difficult for us all to be really mindful of the rules.
"You saw social distancing going really out the window in the clips I saw, and lots of shouting with all the aerosol creation.
"We need to be careful that anything that we do that gives the virus an opportunity to pass between households … could have the result of causing further community spread of the virus.”
The minister was also asked about the details of the £55 million package for sport announced last week, which includes £20m for Premiership clubs, £15m for rugby, and £10m for lower leagues.
The women’s game will have access to the same £10m pot available to all semi-professional league clubs, including those in junior leagues and in the likes of the Lowland and Highland leagues, with support planned to reach around 200 men’s clubs.
However, Mr FitzPatrick failed to answer a question on how much women’s football will specifically receive when asked by SNP colleague and deputy convener Emma Harper.
In response, he said it was “really important” the fund reached “all parts of the game”, but failed to give a figure in an answer lasting more than a minute and a half.
Mr FitzPatrick said: “We had such a bounce in the game after the women’s qualifying into the World Cup and whatever disappointment there was at the end with the final result, it was really exciting and that is what we want to continue to latch onto that to make we can encourage more girls to get involved in football.”