Celtic vs Rangers: Nicola Sturgeon says no final decision has been made on Old Firm game

Both clubs have issued messages urging fans to stay at home if the match takes place, following criticism of Rangers' response to title celebrations; first minister Nicola Sturgeon has welcomed these but added a final decision on whether the game would go ahead had not yet been taken.

Celtic are set to host newly-crowned Scottish Premiership champions Rangers on Sunday - live on Sky Sports
Image: Celtic are set to host newly-crowned Scottish Premiership champions Rangers on Sunday - live on Sky Sports

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says no final decision has been made on whether Sunday's match between Celtic and Rangers will go ahead as she urged the clubs to do more to discourage their fans from breaching coronavirus restrictions.

Both clubs have issued messages to fans urging them to stay at home if the Scottish Premiership match takes place, following criticism of Rangers' response to their supporters' title celebrations earlier in March.

On Tuesday, Rangers tweeted to say they had met with supporters groups regarding Sunday's Old Firm match and said fans supported their message to stay at home during the game.

"Rangers can confirm that we met with supporters groups and key influencers this morning, in relation to the Old Firm game at Parkhead on Sunday," the tweet said.

"We are very pleased that our support is fully aligned on our messaging which has been underlined by both our manager and captain over the weekend. Stay at home. Stay safe. Support the NHS."

The Scottish government and Sturgeon felt Rangers "could have done more" to prevent their fans celebrating in large groups.

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In response, Rangers chairman Douglas Park accused Sturgeon of a "dereliction of duty" and said the Government failed to engage with the club.

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Speaking at the Scottish Government media briefing on Monday, Sturgeon welcomed the clubs' statements but added that a final decision on whether the game would go ahead had not yet been taken.

"I hope the clubs will continue that over the next few days," she said. "It's not just a one statement and the work is done.

Nicola Sturgeon has instructed Scottish professional sport to remain vigilant towards elite sport's coronavirus regulations
Image: Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon has yet to confirm whether Sunday's match will be allowed to go ahead

"I spoke to the chief constable personally last week on his views on what might transpire if the Old Firm match goes ahead. We will be in further contact with police over the course of this week.

"They will have intelligence of their own on whether it appears to them that fans in the main are following the advice or whether there is a significant risk of fans coming out to gather. On the basis of all of that we will have to take a judgement.

"I don't want to be in a position, I never want to be in a position, of standing here and saying football matches can't go ahead, or any of the other things that we really enjoy in life can't go ahead.

"But that's the reality while we are still in this position. Big gatherings present a risk of transmission and we are trying to get transmission as low as possible so that we can open up all of the things we enjoy doing.

"That's why we have to be careful and considered about this. I think a lot of people felt aggrieved at what happened a week past Saturday and Sunday, and understandably so because everybody is still living under these difficult restrictions."

Celtic have already erected fences at Parkhead as well as statues around the stadium including that of former captain Billy McNeill in anticipation that the game will go ahead.

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Celtic have fenced off their stadium ahead of Sunday's match against Rangers

The Hoops' failure to defeat Dundee United last Sunday ensured Rangers won the title for the first time in a decade, with Steven Gerrard's side's first league match since their triumph being the Old Firm game - live on Sky Sports.

Shortly after Sturgeon's briefing, Celtic released a statement confirming that interim boss John Kennedy and captain Scott Brown had been briefed on the latest Covid-19 situation in Scotland by national clinical director Jason Leitch.

The statement said that Celtic "will continue to be clear in our messaging to our supporters of the importance of staying at home in line with guidance throughout the pandemic," and cited the celebrations of a ninth successive league title last summer and the Scottish Cup in December as examples of their fans behaving "responsibly".

Celtic captain Scott Brown said: "It was very interesting to hear the latest update and the message was really loud and clear - that we are still in a very difficult situation and that while we have made some good progress, so many people are continuing to contract the virus, so many in hospital and, of course, tragically, people are still dying. So we need to do all we can to look after each other and protect ourselves and our families.

Celtic captain Scott Brown
Image: Celtic captain Scott Brown says the club's supporters just need to do 'more of the same'

"We know it has been so difficult for our fans not being part of matches, but they have done brilliantly throughout the pandemic. Our supporters have been great in sticking to the guidelines, even after we have won the league and another treble, so we just need more of the same.

"Our priority will always be the safety of our fans and that is all we want to ensure, so our message once again is enjoy our matches from home and keep you and your family safe."

Covid-19 cases have risen in the west of Scotland over the past week but chief medical officer Gregor Smith stated it was too early to understand the full impact of Rangers supporters' title celebrations.

"What we are seeing over the last seven days, however, is an increase in the number of cases associated with many of those areas, particularly across Lanarkshire, Glasgow, and Glasgow City in particular, and parts of Ayrshire & Arran as well," he said.

"How closely we can associate that with events of last weekend is at this stage difficult.

"But, during the interviews contacting tracing teams are having with those who have tested positive, there are a small number who are revealing that they either took part in those celebrations or were involved in house parties that arose from those as well.

"So we can't say it's not having an effect because we are seeing a rise in cases.

"It's still too early to tell, we have got to remember the incubation period for this virus is anything up to a 10-day period so what happens over coming days is going to be fairly revealing in that sense."

Rodgers on Celtic: Show humility, give Rangers guard of honour

Former Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers says his old club should show "humility and class" by giving bitter rivals Rangers a guard of honour ahead of Sunday's Old Firm.

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Brendan Rodgers believes his former club Celtic should give newly-crowned champions Rangers a guard of honour when the sides meet on Sunday, live on Sky Sports

Rangers will go into the game having finally ended Celtic's nine-year dominance of Scottish football by winning their first Premiership title for a decade earlier this month.

The issue of whether the great rivals of the Scottish game should applaud each other onto the pitch if one of them has already won the title was raised two years ago, when Rangers decided not to give newly-crowned champions Celtic a guard of honour ahead of their game at Ibrox.

But Rodgers says Celtic should recognise Rangers' title win and cited the guard of honour Manchester United gave Chelsea at Old Trafford after the Blues had won their first Premier League title in 2005 as an example.

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