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COVID Passports will enable large crowds to continue

Date: 22nd September 2021

On 1st October the Scottish Government’s “vaccine passport” scheme will come into force. Yesterday it was finally confirmed that the scheme will involve spot checks of “a reasonable number” of fans in crowds above 10,000 but there are still a lot of question marks about how it will be implemented. COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our society, and these challenges are evolving continuously – so we need to be pragmatic and work together to overcome them, even if the protection measures that are introduced are not perfect.

We previously highlighted our concerns that some fans would be unfairly excluded from attending matches, and these concerns remain. Whilst vaccine levels are high in Scotland, the vaccine programme began with older age groups, and we are still seeing much lower vaccination rates amongst young people. Exclusion from matches due to vaccination status will therefore affect younger fans disproportionately – and we are also concerned about the unequal impact of this scheme on other demographic groups with lower vaccination rates. We are also told that there will be an exemption system in place for those who are unvaccinated for other reasons, such as other health issues they may have. We do not yet know how this exemption system will work, but it is important that individuals’ privacy is respected – they should not have to share personal health information with others unless they are comfortable in doing so.

We would urge all fans who are as yet unvaccinated to consider getting the jab if they can, as it is a vital part of protecting ourselves and those around us. While this is ultimately a personal choice, the risks appear to be low and the vaccines do appear to be effective, with the vast majority of new cases requiring hospitalisation involving unvaccinated people.

More detail will undoubtedly emerge over the next 10 days about how the system of spot checks will be implemented. It is important that this is done proportionately, consistently and fairly, with every supporter being treated equally.

Despite these concerns, the vaccine passport scheme is an important part of our return to normal life. It is being implemented in order to give us all confidence that it is safe to be part of large crowds, and to prevent the crowd restrictions of last season returning. Supporting our teams is a big part of our lives, and our presence in the stands and on the terraces is vitally important to our clubs – on the pitch and off the pitch. All 42 of our senior clubs survived last season’s shutdown, all of our regional leagues are back up and running this season, and the last thing that we want to see is their existence being threatened once again by the absence of supporters.

Let’s continue to keep everyone safe, let’s continue to enjoy our national game, and support our clubs. If you are unable to get to your own club’s matches, use this as an opportunity to get to know the Scottish football pyramid better – pay a visit to another of your local clubs!

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