AT a time when we are all looking for reasons to be cheerful, it was with great joy and relief that football supporters up and down the country welcomed the news this week that they would be allowed back into stadiums to see their team.

Well, supporters of Premiership clubs. The move to bring forward the top-flight winter break, meaning that just one round of fixtures was subject to crowd restrictions, seems to have been vindicated after all.

Perhaps though someone more qualified than me in epidemiology – which in fairness, could apply to just about anyone reading this – can enlighten me on why crowd restrictions will remain in place until Monday, which coincidentally is when the Premiership card kicks off again with Hibernian’s visit to Celtic Park?

I'm honestly asking. If there is a clear and reasonable explanation for it I have somehow missed, then fair enough. But the decision appears to have been driven by the same logic that national clinical director Jason Leitch admitted brought about the crowd limits of 500 fans in the first place; ‘you have to draw the line somewhere’.

Unfortunately, that move has also drawn a line through expected revenues on the balance sheets of clubs further down the league ladder, and leaving them with a potential ‘black hole’ – as Partick Thistle manager Ian McCall put it – in their finances.

In fairness, there has been £1.79m of public money now allocated to help football clubs who have been affected by the latest restrictions, the first tranche of compensation which will hopefully offset at least some of the hardship they have had to endure.

And being the ones who set the rules cannot be an easy task. It is mostly a thankless one too. But there would be more sympathy for those in charge if there was a clear method and rationale behind their decisions, rather than the rather random reasoning alluded to by Leitch.

Nobody is saying that the right to attend football matches is more important than the need to protect the NHS and the nation’s health, but it is important. And it is just as important to fans of Thistle, Kilmarnock, Arbroath or anyone else as it is to fans of clubs at the top of the tree.

It was no surprise to see Thistle justifiably pushing the government to lift the restrictions for their home match against Killie tonight at Firhill, a game that would have been sure to attract a crowd of between four to five thousand in normal circumstances.

That request has been denied, predictably, but no reasoning has been put forward as far as I can see which clearly explains why a game in front of 5000 punters tonight is any greater a threat to public health than a game in front of 60,000 punters a couple of miles away three days later.

What I do know though is that while the money generated through the gate at Firhill will be modest compared to the cash brought in at Celtic Park, that revenue will likely mean more to Thistle than the Hibs gate will mean to Celtic. Thistle estimate that the crowd limit of 500 will cost them in the region of £40,000 – hardly chump change.

“We don’t understand why this hasn’t happened immediately,” read a Thistle statement.

“The Premiership restarts on the 17th with full crowds but other leagues, playing as usual this weekend, continue to be disadvantaged for a further three days.

“As well as the significant financial impact on Thistle, this decision means our fans face another game where the majority cannot attend and we cannot welcome opposition fans.”

It appears those making such calls either don’t understand what football means to people, or don’t care. The reasonable sympathy they have had from the majority of the football-going public to this point is quickly evaporating though, and it is such apparently arbitrary lines in the sand that fuel such discord.

Is it a stretch to say that with each infringement upon the liberties of supporters without showing their working, they are costing themselves votes? Such is the strength of feeling, I don’t know that it is.

Just as with the Premiership, another option that potentially could have been explored by the SPFL to mitigate the financial damage wrought upon these clubs would have been to postpone the fixtures set for this weekend and rescheduling them for a time when fans were free to attend.

Such things are always easier said than done when you already have a congested fixture list, but in any case, the fact that the game from Firhill tonight is live on BBC Scotland means that isn’t an option, for this match at least.

The rest of the clubs playing at home this weekend though will also just have to suck it up it seems, which is all the more unpalatable when there appears to be no good reason for having to do so.

You do indeed have to draw the line somewhere. And when assessing how the government have handled the plight of our football clubs during the pandemic, for many fans this might just be it.