MATCH ticket. Check. Scarf. Check. Vaccine passport. Oh aye, that.

Gaining access to a Scottish football stadium has never been as complicated, and never as unnecessarily so, either. Welcome to the future.

Our national game has long been accused of being reluctant to change, but the sport has moved with the times and the situation throughout the Covid pandemic.

Now it will feel the brunt of the latest set of rules and regulations that have been approved at Holyrood and must be adopted at Hampden and beyond.

Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, this week branded the vaccine passport programme as ‘botched’ and called for the scheme to be scrapped completely.

It is hard to see just what the point of the vaccine passport actually is and what purpose it serves. Apart from allowing the Government to be seen to be doing something, anything, of course.

If you are in a crowd of thousands, it surely makes no difference to you whether the man, woman or child next to you has been fully vaccinated or not? If they have Covid, they can still pass it on to you, whether they have had two doses or none.

Negative tests bring more peace of mind but there is no requirement for fans to produce that paperwork. So what difference does this QR code make?

From 5am on Friday morning, people over the age of 18 will need to show that they have received both jags of a Covid vaccine before they are allowed entry to certain venues and events. This is where Scottish football will be hit hardest.

Clubs will be required to carry out a ‘reasonable’ number of spot checks on supporters to comply with the law but there must be a danger that the entire programme becomes a box ticking exercise as frontline staff are left to deal with the fall-out. How is that information on numbers checked verified?

Just to add to the confusion, Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday that a two week ‘grace period’ will be permitted for businesses to ‘test, adapt and build confidence in the practical arrangements they will need to put in place to be compliant with the scheme’.

But Rangers and Hearts – both of whom will be impacted by this in the first weekend of operation – confirmed on Wednesday that all supporters will have to be fully vaccinated as they take on Hibernian and Motherwell respectively this weekend.

Rangers stated their Premiership clash was a ‘test event’ and both clubs sought to distance themselves from the legislation, highlighting that it was a Government decision and not a football one.

Given the possibility that the entire process could quickly turn into a farce, it is no surprise to see the fingers of blame being readied for some potential pointing.

It should not be up to clubs or their staff to question supporters on their medical status or to have to turn them away from the gate if they don’t meet the requirements.

If fans are knocked back from one gate, do they simply go to another and take their chances? Or will arguments break out as queues form and action is missed whilst the paperwork is assessed at the turnstiles?

At many stages throughout the worst of the pandemic, there were scenarios that just didn’t stack up when compared to other cases and it is difficult to fathom just what the point of all of this is.

Clubs should have been used as a force for good more than they have been and the messaging from them could have encouraged supporters to take up the vaccine. Instead, the game is being used – like nightclubs – to almost guilt trip, or perhaps even blackmail, people into accepting a dose.

Come this weekend, clubs will have to check thousands of supporters before they take their seats but then be able to field a team who may not have the required paperwork themselves.

The Premier League have revealed that 13 of the 20 teams have squads where fewer than 50 per cent of the players are fully vaccinated. It would be intriguing to know the numbers for the SPFL.

That should be the priority for clubs and Hampden and Holyrood could have worked together in that regard to boost take-up of the vaccine across the wider public.

Instead, our clubs will once again have to implement plans drawn up without their approval. Once again, football fans will be disproportionately targeted and impacted.


AFTER a season played against a backdrop of no atmosphere and no crowds, the return of fans has been a reminder, not that any was needed, of their importance to our game.

The Old Firm should keep that in mind that as they continue to shut out away fans from Ibrox and Parkhead and force visiting clubs to make alternative arrangements for their supporters.

Motherwell allowed spectators into Fir Park to watch their 1-1 draw with Rangers earlier this month, while Hibernian will open Easter Road as Jack Ross looks to lead his side to the top of the Premiership with victory over the champions this weekend.

The requirement for Covid ‘red zones’ has forced clubs to move season ticket holders and, in the case of the Old Firm, the only seats in the house are the traditional away sections.

It is a sad state of affairs and one that could become a case of tit-for-tat. The Old Firm know, though, how important their travelling crowd is financially to their Premiership rivals and it would be a big call for a board to sanction a retaliation and lock out Rangers and Celtic fans.

Hearts and Motherwell have taken their case to the SPFL. Until red zones and social distancing are removed, it is hard to see a solution that will suit all parties.

Matches do not have the same sense of occasion or spectacle without away fans and no support should be denied the chance to see their side in action.

Sooner rather than later, common sense must prevail and all punters – no matter the colour of their scarf – should be allowed to take their seats once again.