SCOTLAND will welcome back capacity crowds to big football and rugby matches from Monday.
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced she was lifting the rules that restricted crowds to just 500 supporters from December 26 due to the Omicron wave.
Scottish clubs had been considering playing matches in England in an attempt to get round the rules.
But clubs in the north of England or the Midlands could charge sums north of £250,000 for the privilege of using their grounds.
Ahead of Ms Sturgeon's statement, SNP ministers agreed to lift the 500-person limit on outdoor gatherings as planned from Monday.
However restrictions on indoor events and on hospitality venues – like mandatory table service and one-metre distancing between groups – have been extended for a further week until at least January 24.
It also emerged Scots would now need to have had a booster to use vaccine passports – including for football grounds.
On December 21, Ms Sturgeon announced measures “for a period of three weeks”, meaning more restrictions on large events, hospitality and indoor sports than in England.
Despite the aim to keep them in place for three weeks from December 26 and 27, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs was “prudent to remain careful and cautious” despite “signs that we may be starting to turn a corner” in the Omicron wave.
The change means crowds will be able to return to Premiership football games and for the Six Nations rugby tournament.
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Premiership clubs return from their early winter break next week – with Celtic playing host to Hibs on January 17.
But there was no mention from the First Minister of whether restrictions on people participating on indoor sports would be lifted.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: “We will begin to lift the protective measures announced before Christmas from Monday but in a phased way that will allow us to form in the days ahead a clearer picture of the trends in infections and associated impacts.
“As a quick reminder, the measures I am specifically referring to here are limits on attendances at live public events, the requirement for distancing between groups in public indoor places, and the requirement for table service in hospitality venues serving alcohol on the premises.
"I expect to confirm further dates next week. However I can confirm today that the attendance limit of 500 at large-scale outdoor events will be lifted from Monday, 17 January.
"That means, for example, that spectators will be permitted again at major outdoor sporting events, including football fixtures scheduled for early next week, and the forthcoming Six Nations rugby matches."
Revealing the changes to the Covid certification scheme, she said: “Firstly, our guidance will now stipulate that the organisers of large events of 1000 or more people should check the certification status of at least 50% of attendees, rather than the current 20%, or at least 1,000 people – whichever figure is higher.
“And, second, from Monday the requirement to be ‘fully vaccinated’ for the purposes of Covid certification will include having a booster if the second dose was more than four months ago.”
A Rangers fan group staged a demonstration at the Scottish parliament about the Government's handling of the Covid fan curbs.
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