Scottish football chiefs were left in a state of ‘bemusement’ on Tuesday night after Nicola Sturgeon appeared to plunge a red light into the roadmap that could allow the Tartan Army back into Hampden this summer.
Hopes were raised on Monday that the national stadium could be packed to the rafters on June 22 when Steve Clarke ’s team take on Croatia, hoping to make history on home soil by becoming the first ever Scotland side to reach the knockout stages of a major tournament.
Clarke has since called for fans to be let into the Euros to cheer on his side.
But while plans are now being drawn up down south for Wembley to be opened up to tens of thousands of England fans for matches in the same group – including an Auld Enemy showdown on June 18 – the First Minister yesterday stopped miles short of endorsing Boris Johnson ’s proposed timetable for lifting the coronavirus lockdown.
And fears were growing last night Hampden’s turnstiles could remain padlocked under order of the Holyrood government while as many as 90,000 English supporters might be roaring Gareth Southgate’s side on in their final Group D clash against the Czech Republic.
Scotland boss Clarke said: “I’m really, really hopeful we will get some kind of crowd for the games in the summer.
“If that happens the mentality of the players might change a bit, hopefully for the better.
“I will go there to try to enjoy it, but I know what I am like. I will only enjoy it if we are successful and that’s the bottom line.
“The two games at Hampden will be great. If we can get crowds in, it will be even better than great.
“The trip to Wembley will be a great occasion, but it will only be good for us if we can come away with something from it.”
Football’s Joint Response Group released a statement on Tuesday in which it called for urgent clarity to be given on the implications for the national sport ‘at all levels’.
As Record Sport exclusively revealed, not only have concerns been expressed about the apparent reluctance to allow fans back in time for the Euros, but fears are also growing that Scotland’s ‘go-slow’ approach to relaxing restrictions could cause further chaos across League One and League Two as well as torpedo this season’s Scottish Cup.
The statement read: “The Joint Response Group notes the First Minister’s road map out of lockdown outlined at Holyrood today.
“We await further clarification from ministers in the coming days on the implications for Scottish football at all levels, including leagues and clubs currently under the Scottish FA suspension and the wider grassroots game.
“We will provide a more detailed update when ministers outline the road map for affected areas of Scottish football.
“The JRG is committed to working with government to ensure the national game is primed to return within the ‘progressive easing’ time-line announced today.”
It’s understood the game’s governors are reluctant to be seen to publicly question the Scottish government’s approach as they attempt to thrash out a compromise behind the scenes.
But one senior Hampden source told Record Sport : “There is a feeling of complete bemusement as to why the roadmap looks so different on one side of the border and a genuine concern for the impact such an obvious divergence could have on football in this country at all levels.
“While the game needs to work with the government to find a solution there is also an urgent need for Scottish football to be given answers.”
The FM unveiled ‘Scotland’s new strategic framework’ to parliament in Edinburgh yesterday.
But, while England now hopes to be clear of all restrictions by June 21, Sturgeon’s plan looks no further ahead than a potential return to a tiered system by the end of April.
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In a 94 page document released by the Government following yesterday’s announcement there was at least an apparent, if fleeting acknowledgement of the significance of this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament.
It read: “We will continue to engage with partners and key stakeholders on the way forward, taking into account key milestones and activities such as May’s Scottish election, summer sporting events, students returning in September and the COP26 climate summit.”
But our source added: “With the successful roll out of the vaccine across the UK it’s getting harder and harder to fathom why the recovery of football and Scottish sport in general should be out of kilter with what is being proposed in other parts of the country.”
-- to www.dailyrecord.co.uk