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Steven Gerrard calls for Old Firm clash to be screened free of charge

Soccer – Scottish Cup – Fifth Round – Celtic v Aberdeen – Celtic Park
(Image credit: Jeff Holmes)

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard has backed Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s call for Saturday’s Old Firm clash to be screened free of charge.

The opening derby battle of the season will take place at Celtic Park behind closed doors.

With pubs in Glasgow and across the central belt currently shut under temporary restrictions to combat Covid-19, Sturgeon is worried fans without a Sky Sports subscription will gather in the homes of friends and relatives, increasing the risk of transmission.

Speaking on Thursday, the First Minister said: “I would encourage Sky Sports this weekend to make the Rangers v Celtic match free to view for supporters as a small but important contribution they could make to helping keep people safe right now.”

And Gerrard agrees, saying: “I certainly share the fans frustration because I know how desperate people want to watch their team, so it’s very difficult.

“They’re getting a lot of instructions and are being told what to do – but that’s very difficult when you have no access to the game.

“So I think people need to do more for them and maybe put this game on free of charge so they don’t have to leave their own homes.

“Of course the priority here is fan safety and I urge them to stay at home, stay safe, keep their families safe and do the right thing.

“But I certainly share their frustration because these people have probably watched the last 100 or 200 Old Firm games so it’s a very difficult instruction to take when you’re desperate to watch the team that you love.

“If it is the right thing to do then give them football free of charge in that small pocket of time, because it’s not fair on fans to be sitting in the house when not every fan is in the same situation where they have BT Sport and Sky Sports and all these channels, which are a luxury.

“You’ve got to look out for everyone and make sure that people have got access to watch the team that they love.”

However, SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster has already dismissed the possibility.

He told BBC Scotland on Thursday that giving the game away for free “wouldn’t be a reasonable thing to ask when they have invested so much in the product and in Scottish football”.

He added: “Ultimately Sky has invested well over £125m for the next four seasons, as well as this season, in Scottish football and they’ve bought those rights on an exclusive basis with a view to people subscribing for their services, so I think it’s wholly unreasonable that Sky give those crown jewels away.

“This is a game that everyone wants to see and you can see it through subscribing to Sky or buying a Now TV pass, which is less than £10, so it’s very accessible and there’s no reason why anyone should have to go to someone else’s house to watch the game.”