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Nicola Sturgeon’s 500 capacity limit labelled ‘baffling’ as Raith Rovers fans’ rep insists supporters would prefer shutdown to lockout amid Covid concerns

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Raith Rovers fans’ chief Margie Robertson believes the majority of supporters would rather see Scottish football placed on a short hiatus than adhere to a ‘baffling’ capacity limit of 500.

Clubs were rocked on Tuesday by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that crowds were to be once again capped due to the increasing spread of the Omicron variant.

Social media backlash from punters and players alike was immediate, with reports that the SPFL may instead look to bring forward the upcoming winter break and postpone fixtures.

That would be a potential solution for Premiership clubs — and ensure the lucrative Dundee derby, among other games — could go ahead with a full house at a later date.

However, that does little to help sides in the Championship.

Rovers, in particular, face the prospect of their Fife derby showdown against Dunfermline on January 2 being played in front of sparse stands.

Nicola Sturgeon has come under fire from football fans.

And Robertson, the Kirkcaldy club’s supporter liaison officer, reckons there is a persuasive case for shutting down the game as a whole for the next few weeks.

“From speaking to fans, there is overwhelming support for postponing the games,” Robertson told Courier Sport.

“Rather than this arbitrary 500 rule, let’s shut the game down for a short period and be creative after that.

“I understand that the season might need extended slightly, if possible, or there could be fixture congestion — but there would be no competitive advantage. Everyone would be in the same boat.”

‘Baffling’

Robertson is adamant the catch-all limit of 500 ‘makes no sense’, further adding to a sense of injustice and confusion among angry fans.

“Someone needs to explain the 500 limit to me,” Robertson continued. “It’s like they have said: ‘We need to do something — so let’s just say 500!’

“So, you are going to let 500 supporters into Kelty Hearts and Cove Rangers, then let 500 into Ibrox. And call it the same thing?

“It makes no sense; it’s baffling. It’s like they haven’t taken any specific circumstances into account.”

Mental health

As well as causing financial repercussions for clubs across Scotland, Robertson is keen to emphasise the knock-on effect for the well-being of fans.

Following an entire campaign of football behind closed doors, returning to matches has been a mental health balm for many.

Robertson contends that being forced to once again swap stadiums for screens is a sombre prospect.

Rovers and Dunfermline drew 1-1 at Stark’s Park earlier this term

“Football has been so important for a mental health aspect,” added Robertson. “For anyone to be able to return to the thing they love — that’s irreplaceable.

“Last season, Rovers were playing games with no spectators and, although Raith TV did a wonderful job, it wasn’t the same.

“You’d let out a wee celebration after a win, then shut down the computer. That’s a lonely afternoon for many. Football isn’t supposed to be like that. It’s a shared experience.

“The idea of going back to that? You can see why so many people are upset.”

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