Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has called on Nicola Sturgeon to lift the government’s Covid ban on amateur football matches.
Under existing restrictions 35,000 registered amateur players in Scotland’s Central Belt have been stopped from playing games, while competitive professional and semi-professional football is allowed.
However, semi-professional teams follow the same Covid safety procedures as sides playing in the amateur leagues.
“Consideration should be given to finding a workable solution that allows the amateur football leagues to safely carry out games,” under the same rules, Leonard said.
In a letter to the First Minister, Leonard warned that the rules had created a “two-tiered football system in Scotland.”
The ban will “impact the physical and mental health of thousands of people who would normally be participating in the sport, “Leonard added.
Leonard called on Sturgeon to hold urgent talks aimed at lifting the ban with Stuart Urquhart, President of the Scottish Amateur Football Association (SAFA), who has raised the issue with the Scottish Labour leader.
The SAFA contacted Leonard, after Scottish Labour launched a campaign for a ‘Scottish Football Aid’ fund, to help parts of the sport threatened by Covid.
Leonard said: “The current restrictions have created a two-tiered football system in Scotland, where semi-professional football teams and players are given exemptions to carry on competing in their leagues, whilst amateur teams are not.
“As I understand it semi-pro teams follow exactly the same COVID procedures as teams in the Amateur league and ‘gatherings’ are similar in size.
“Football remains Scotland’s most popular sport, it helps many people, players and fans, to focus their minds and efforts of something that provides a lot of happiness, that is why having a blanket ban does not work,” Leonard added.