Old Firm game: infamous Rangers pub in Blackpool will ‘not be open’ to football fans travelling from Scotland

Publicans are hoping not to be inundated with Scottish football fans taking advantage of England’s relaxed lockdown measures

Blackpool's Rangers pub will not open for today’s (18 August) ‘Old Firm’ derby match against Celtic a fourth-round tie in the Scottish Cup.

The resort's popular Gallant Pioneer pub in Station Road will not be open for football fans, with a spokesperson saying they were "sorry to say they would not be open" for Rangers fans to watch the team's match.

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The pub made headlines in October last year, when it was forced to close after receiving 1,500 requests from Scottish football fans.

Police on duty outside Ibrox Stadium following the Old Firm derby in March 2021, a match that was at risk of cancellation after Rangers fans breached lockdown to celebrate their team's title win (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Under current lockdown restrictions, pubs in England can open for service outside, though patrons must observe social distancing measures, including adhering to the Rule of Six.

With Scotland’s “stay local” advice lifted from 16 April – and with many publicans setting up outside viewing areas – there were rumours ahead of the game that large numbers of travelling fans were planning to make the trip over the border.

The Scottish Government has earmarked 26 April as the date hospitality venues – including pubs – will be able to resume limited trading.

What happened last year?

Pubs in England are able to screen football matches to customers seated outdoors, while similar venues in Scotland cannot yet do this (Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

In October 2020, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was forced to advise Scots against travelling to high-risk areas of England to take advantage of more relaxed coronavirus restrictions south of the border.

She singled out Blackpool “associated with a large and growing number of Covid cases in Scotland”, and said at least 180 people in Scotland who tested positive for Covid-19 at the time had reported a recent trip to the Lancashire town.

Sturgeon added that “Blackpool is a place that many Scots love and like to visit”; part of the town’s popularity in Scotland stems from the railway expansion in the 1840s, which made the affordable coastal resort an easy reach.

But it’s not just Blackpool that could be affected; bus loads of Old Firm fans descended on pubs in and around Cumbria and across the North of England last year.

When is the game?

The Old Firm fixture at Ibrox, originally set for 4pm on Saturday, was among a raft of Scottish Cup fourth-round ties moved by the Scottish Football Association to avoid a clash with the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.

It will now kick-off at 3pm on Sunday 18 April.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has warned Celtic to beware a backlash on Sunday after insisting this is the game his side have been waiting for.

His team wrapped up their first league crown in a decade over a month ago and still have another four weeks to go before they at last get their hands on the trophy.

But Gerrard admits his team have suffered a title hangover and struggled to rediscover their best form since the wild celebrations which followed the capture of the club’s 55th title.

Celtic caretaker boss John Kennedy has drawn scorn from the blue half of Glasgow by insisting the Parkhead men remain the best team in Scotland.

Meanwhile in England footballing action, FA Cup semi-final spectators will be part of a large research project looking at how fans and audiences can safely attend events again, with music events to follow in the coming weeks.

The game between Leicester City and Southampton will host an audience of 4,000.

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