Scottish Cup final: No crowd for St Johnstone v Hibs after Glasgow spike in cases

This season's semi-finals were played at an empty Hampden
This season's semi-finals were played at an empty Hampden

The Scottish Cup final between St Johnstone and Hibernian will now not be played in front of 600 fans at Hampden Park, due to a spike in Covid-19 cases in Glasgow.

The Scottish Government approved a plan for a limited number of fans to attend the final on 22 May.

However, a surge in the virus in the city has forced a u-turn just 24 hours after permission was granted.

Glasgow will not move to Level 2 restrictions as a result.

That would have allowed 500 fans to attend the showpiece event without specific permission, with the option to apply to the government for more.

The Scottish FA had applied for 2,000 fans to attend the match earlier this week, given Hampden's limited capacity due to construction works for the European Championships taking place next month.

But due to 2m (rather than 1.5m) social distancing rules, the government only approved a crowd of 600.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon then announced on Friday afternoon that Glasgow, along with Moray, would not drop to Level 2 restrictions due to a rise in cases amid concern about the new Indian variant of the virus in the city's south side, where Hampden is located.

Hibs had intended to ballot 240 season ticket holders to distribute their allocation of 300 tickets, with 60 reserved for players' family and friends.

St Johnstone had yet to confirm their intentions before the decision to have fans was reversed.

Could the final have been moved?

With St Johnstone, from Perth, and Edinburgh club Hibernian contesting the final, some have argued the match could have been moved outside Glasgow to facilitate the return of fans.

After the SFA initially said that Hampden would not be able to host supporters for the final back in March due to preparation works by Uefa for the Euros, the governing body approached Scottish Rugby about potentially using Murrayfield in Edinburgh.

However, the SRU said the stadium was unavailable due to continued Pro14 Rainbow Cup commitments.

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack, meanwhile, offered up the use of Pittodrie for the final, with both Hibs and St Johnstone initially open to changing venue.

What about the Euros?

Hampden is due to host three group stage matches - two of which involve Scotland - at the European Championships next month.

Uefa have insisted that cities had to commit to filling up to a third of their stadia's capacity to retain their status as a host venue, and approved plans for 12,000 spectators to attend Scotland v Czech Republic on 14 June; Scotland v Croatia on 18 June; and Croatia v Czech Republic on 22 June.

Scotland's national clinical director Professor Leitch told BBC Scotland's Drivetime programme he remains "confident" that Scotland's national stadium can still meet its requirements.

"It's far enough away that I'm hopeful we'll be in a good place by then," he said.

"But it needs a public health response, it needs people to step up and people to be really, really careful."

'Just move the game' - reaction

Former Hibernian midfielder Michael Stewart on Sportsound

In my mind, I'm more than willing to just be cautious and move forward slowly so that when we do move forward we're not slipping back the way. If it means that 600 fans are not going to get into the stadium, disappointing as it may be - there is a bigger picture at play here.

Former St Johnstone defender Richard Foster on Sportsound

I thought the decision to only allow 600 fans in was a waste of time anyway. But it would have been nice for the players to have their close friends and family there. You talk about innovative solutions - just move the game. Even with 600 fans, the logistics are simple. We're a week away from the game.

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