THE owner of a popular Celtic pub expects to lose out on “tens of thousands of pounds” in Old Firm cash this weekend.

Andy McCartney, the director of the Base group which manages the Ram’s Head in Maryhill, would normally be running a Celtic supporters bus and pulling pints for fans in the pub. 

With fans consigned to watch the game from their living rooms, Andy said pubs are set to lose out on “significant” amounts of money that they would usually expect to see. 

He added: “The Ram’s Head have a supporter’s bus of 80 people, who prefer to watch the Celtic games in the pub or to go along to the match, so they tend not to have Sky TV. The only thing these new restrictions will achieve is to push the public into the supermarkets to buy alcohol and encourage spreader parties. 

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“It’s so apparent to us that the current restrictions were timed to align with the Old Firm game, when in reality pubs prevent the unsafe and unregulated mixing of households.” 

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We fully appreciate how difficult it has been for the hospitality sector, but these new restrictions are based on the fundamental need to reduce transmissions, which we know is key to keeping infection rates as low as possible.

“It is by taking the tough but necessary action now that we hope to avoid even tougher action in future.

Glasgow Times: The Ram’s Head in MaryhillThe Ram’s Head in Maryhill

“We are doing everything with the powers we have to help businesses, offering support which now exceeds £2.3 billion, including 100% rates relief for pubs and restaurants for the year. We have also launched a £40 million fund to help businesses affected by these temporary restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus. As the First Minister has indicated, we would like to have the flexibility to go further – but we are constrained by the fact that most of the key financial powers are reserved to the UK Government.” 

In 2005, Strathclyde University’s Fraser of Allander Institute estimated the fixture’s worth as bringing around £118 million to Scotland’s economy.

The exact figure for Glasgow is hard to pin down but it is certain that pubs, taxis, trains, hotels, ferry services, buses, restaurants, cafes and more enjoy a welcome Old Firm bounce in their revenue on match days.

Paul Waterson, the spokesman for the Scottish Licensed Trade Association said the absence of Old Firm cash was a focal point for the trials of the hospitality trade this year.

“It highlights all the existing problems we’re facing right now,” he added. “Before the new restrictions came into place in August, we estimated that 38% of the businesses we represent were down by a half, making them unviable. 

“That may now be as high as two-thirds of businesses, which would mean a loss of 25,000 staff in the hospitality trade.”

An Old Firm match can make the difference between a good week and a bad week for a pub, according to Mr Waterson. 

This has been a bad year for pubs after lockdown restrictions saw them closed for months at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic and many of them would have welcomed a cash boost from Rangers and Celtic going head to head. 

James Kelly, a Labour MSP for Glasgow, said that it will be concerning for pubs across the city that they cannot hope to see any of the cash usually generated by the game. 

He added: “For public health and safety reasons there will be no public attendance at Saturday’s Celtic v Rangers match. This is going to have a detrimental impact on the local economy of the East End and the wider Glasgow area. 

Glasgow Times: Labour MSP James KellyLabour MSP James Kelly

“With 60,000 fans in attendance many venues in Glasgow normally see a boost to their footfall over the course of this big football weekend. 

“Many businesses are already struggling as a result of the impact of Covid and it will be a concern that they are not be able to rely on the big match crowds to help recover lost revenue.”

With pubs across the Central Belt empty as part of the government’s “circuit breaker” lockdown strategy, there have been warnings and pleas from the First Minister, wary of Old Firm supporters’ passions, for people to keep following public health guidance. 

In response to accusations from Labour in parliament yesterday that the government was failing to consult with businesses, Ms Sturgeon said: “I do not get up in the morning and decide to close pubs for some sort of policy reason. We are trying to save lives and to balance that as best we can with the interests of the economy.”

The leader of Glasgow city council Susan Aitken urged Glaswegians to keep themselves and others safe. 

Glasgow Times: Susan AitkenSusan Aitken

She said: “The Old Firm is one of the world’s greatest sporting rivalries and sport is hugely important to Glasgow, culturally and economically. Naturally, it is one of the many things people have missed during this public health emergency.

“Whatever sport people are taking part in or watching this weekend, it is vital they prioritise the safety and wellbeing of those around them, particularly at this crucial point in efforts to control the spread of this virus.”