CELTIC and Rangers were dealt a bitter blow today with the announcement that football matches will now be restricted to just 500 spectators.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered the update following a Cabinet meeting to discuss ways of slowing the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

New rules will kick in on Boxing Day and impact the festive football fixtures, which include the top-flight derby in Glasgow as well as the Edinburgh and Dundee derbies in the first few days of 2022.

Despite the blow there is a slither of hope that these fixtures could be played in front of a capacity crowd.

It is understood that discussions are underway between Scottish Premiership clubs over bringing the winter break forward a week due to the new restrictions.

This would mean that matches would return when the Scottish Government are set to review her changes in three weeks.

Sturgeon said: “From December 26 inclusive, for a period of up to three weeks, we intend to place limits on the size of live public events.”

Indoor standing events will be limited to 100 spectators, indoor seated events to 200, and outdoor events to 500 people with physical distancing of one metre in place.

“This will of course make sports matches, including football, effectively spectator-free over this three-week period, a situation similar to that in Wales from Boxing Day,” the First Minister added.

Sturgeon explained the rationale behind the new limits.

“Firstly we know that the much higher transmissibility of Omicron means large gatherings have the potential to become very rapid super-spreader events, putting large numbers at risk of getting infected very quickly,” she said.

“Limiting these events helps reduce the risk of widespread transmission. It also cuts down the transmission risks associated with travel to and from these events.

“And second, and this is not an insignificant point, these large events put an additional burden on emergency services, especially the police and ambulance services.

“At a time when these services are already under severe pressure and also dealing with high staff absences, limiting large-scale events will help them focus in delivering essential services to the public.”