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Nicola Sturgeon insists there is no special treatment for rugby over football

Celtic v Ferencvaros – UEFA Champions League – Second Qualifying Round – Celtic Park
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denied her government had given preferential treatment to rugby as she told football fans that every effort was being made to ensure a return to stadiums was safe.

Around 700 spectators will be allowed into BT Murrayfield as a trial event on Friday when Edinburgh host Glasgow Warriors, ahead of an indicative date of September 14 for fans to return to sports stadiums in limited numbers.

However, a request to have some supporters in the stadium for Celtic’s home match against Motherwell on Sunday was rejected by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish football authorities publicly sought “urgent clarification” from the government on Wednesday night following the decision.

But the First Minister insisted the “shape of the ball” was irrelevant in the trial event and Friday’s occasion would allow lessons to be learned for football and other sports.

Sturgeon said: “Of course I understand the frustrations many people in many different walks of life are feeling right now because life isn’t normal and we’re all really anxious to get life back to normal.

“But let me just be clear what we’re doing here with these trial events with spectators back in stadiums. We’re not trialling how it works with rugby versus football.

Nicola Sturgeon denied showing favouritism

Nicola Sturgeon denied showing favouritism (PA)

“I’ll let you into a wee secret here, the virus doesn’t care about the shape of the ball at these events.

“What we are testing is how we can operate in a stadium with spectators and maintain and comply with all the physical distancing and other hygiene rules.

“So the learning from rugby will apply to football. The test event that will go ahead at Murrayfield will allow us to learn and apply those lessons across different sports.

“And hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will be able to move into having, albeit in limited numbers, spectators in stadiums for a whole variety of sports, not on a test and pilot basis but on a more general basis.

BT Murrayfield will hold some fans when Edinburgh take on Glasgow again

BT Murrayfield will hold some fans when Edinburgh take on Glasgow again (Ian Rutherford/PA)

“I would ask spectators and fans, whether it’s in football or rugby, to bear with us just now.

“We are trying to find the safest ways of getting as much normality back as possible.

“It’s not about preferring rugby over football or football over rugby or any other sport, it’s just about trying to keep people as safe as possible.”