St Johnstone’s bid to get the second leg of their Europa League clash with Galatasaray played at McDiarmid Park has been taken to Westminster.
Pete Wishart, the MP for Perth and North Perthshire, has raised the issue with the Minister for Sport, Nigel Huddleston.
Saints are currently facing the prospect of playing the Turkish giants – trailing PSV Eindhoven 5-1 in their Champions League qualifier and all but certain to take on Callum Davidson’s men next – at a neutral venue for both legs of their glamour tie.
The first match (away) is on August 5 and the return seven days later.
Turkey is currently on the UK red-list for travel and a review date for the Covid traffic light system will not take place until August 4.
That means, as it stands, both clubs are precluded from travelling in and out of the UK because no ‘elite sportsperson’ exemptions are applicable during the qualifying stage.
Publishing his letter on Twitter, Mr Wishart said: “I have written to the Sports Minister to seek clarity about St Johnstone being requested to play their Europa League Qualifying home game on a ‘neutral’ ground. Saints fans deserve to see their cup double winning side in European action.”
I have written to the Sports Minister to seek clarity about St Johnstone being requested to play their Europa League Qualifying home game on a ‘neutral’ ground. Saints fans deserve to see their cup double winning side in European action. pic.twitter.com/XGWt1cws6i
— Pete Wishart (@PeteWishart) July 23, 2021
He is seeking answers as to why Saints’ Europa League qualifier may not be allowed to proceed as other larger scale sporting events have this summer.
The Scottish Government has already pledged to help the Perth club, stating they will work with them to “find a solution”.
A spokesperson said: “International travel restrictions remain necessary to limit the importation of the virus and variants of concern.
“Red list countries pose the highest risk, and we must therefore consider any exemptions very carefully.
“We are aware of the particular issue outlined and will work with the football authorities to aim to find a suitable solution.”
Local MSP John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister and Covid Recovery Secretary, has confirmed he has been alerted by anxious Saints fans eager to see European football get the green light for McDiarmid next month.
The Scottish Government does have the power to offer red list exemptions for elite athletes in some limited occasions so Mr Wishart’s plea to Westminster may not be needed.