Rangers supporters will likely be fuming after it was announced that 16,500 rugby fans will attend a British & Irish Lions match at Murrayfield next month [Lionsrugby.com].
Bears made their feelings clear after pre-trophy day communications between Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson and the Scottish Government emerged on Tuesday.
Robertson had proposed that 10k fans be permitted entry to Ibrox on Saturday and on four subsequent days for safe and organised title celebrations, but the request was refused.
Despite thousands of fans attending matches across the border in England over the same weekend, the Scottish Government insisted that no supporters would be permitted to attend outdoor events until that specific region had moved to Level 2 and even then, crowds would be strictly limited.
Rangers’ request was ambitious but at least there was an attempt to provide an alternative to unregulated mass gatherings and given that 12,000 supporters will attend Euro 2020 matches at Hampden in less than a month, the Scottish Government’s inflexible approach was hard to stomach – just as it has been for fans of St Johnstone and Hibernian who won’t get to see their teams contest the Scottish Cup final on Saturday.
Supporters are likely to be even more frustrated following an official British & Irish Lions announcement on Wednesday morning, though.
It’s been confirmed that the Lions will play Japan in Edinburgh in front of 16,500 spectators – 25% of Murrayfield’s capacity – on Saturday 26th June.
That’s over a month on from trophy day, so many more people in Scotland will have been vaccinated and restrictions may have been eased further, with Edinburgh already in Level 2.
However, it’s a big jump from zero or 500 to 16,500 and – based on quotes from several key individuals involved in the organisation of the event – the Scottish Government appear to have been much more understanding in their negotiations with the Lions and Scottish Rugby than they were with the Gers.
“We are very grateful to the Scottish Government for its commitment and support to ensure this fixture would be seen by a live audience,” said Lions managing director Ben Calveley [Lionsrugby.com].
“Through the positive working relationship we have developed with both Scottish Government and key local partners we are confident we will offer a safe environment for every supporter and look forward to playing our part in hosting this unique sporting occasion and welcoming rugby fans back to Edinburgh,” added Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson.
You can read the full attendance update below 👇https://t.co/0SNk5LFpgQ
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) May 19, 2021
“As a flagship event of international significance, this match has been carefully considered by the Scottish Government,” said national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch.
“The stadium capacity has been agreed, following public health advice, in principle by Ministers but will be kept under review, with all partners continuing to monitor the status of the pandemic in the run-up to the match to ensure fans can attend safely. This is the same process used to set the capacity for the Euros at Hampden and for other internationally significant events during the summer.”
It seems Rangers’ first Premiership title in ten years was deemed to be a much less significant event than this one-off Rugby Test, which is essentially a warm-up fixture ahead of the Lions’ main tour of South Africa.