Rangers began their Premiership campaign at home to Livingston yesterday but the league flag – the first to arrive at Ibrox in ten tears – remains unfurled.
With only 23,000 fans granted entry to the stadium due to pandemic-related health and safety reasons, the champions elected to wait until they had a capacity crowd for the occasion.
Their original intention was to hold the ceremony before the match against Motherwell on September 18 but that could be brought forward if First Minister Nicola Sturgeon includes football in her list of areas where restrictions will be lifted in an announcement at Holyrood a week tomorrow.
She has publicly stated that she hopes to return to “almost complete normality” on August 9, although that may depend on the success of the vaccination roll-out by that time.
Should she agree to allow clubs to return to pre-Covid attendance levels, however, then Rangers could bring their flag day forward – and their next Premiership fixture at home is against city rivals Celtic on August 29.
Rangers fans would love to celebrate their title win that day and there’s nothing in the SPFL’s rules which would prevent them from doing so, although such a move would be unprecedented. In recent seasons Rangers have restricted Celtic to 800 fans at Ibrox for Old Firm clashes, with Celtic reciprocating for matches at Parkhead.
It’s possible, though, there might not be any Hoops fans present at all if Rangers do decide to get out the flagpole on August 29. At present, due to the current restrictions, some clubs only allow home supporters to attend matches.
Others, without huge season-ticket sales, welcome travelling spectators (Motherwell have offered Hibs 2,000 tickets for today’s match at Fir Park). Rangers, with over 45,000 season-ticket holders, may decide to adopt a home fans only policy for the derby. Should Rangers choose to exclude away supporters, the SPFL board may be called upon to make a ruling either way should Celtic contest that decision.
SPFL Rule I27 states: “The Home club must make provision for the admission of such reasonable number of visiting supporters at every home League Match and Play-Off Match as may be agreed in advance with the Visiting Club and, in the event of their being unable to agree such number not later than 14 days prior to the date of the League Match or Play-Off Match in question, the number of visiting supporters allowed shall be determined by the Board whose decision shall be final and binding.”