Scotland fans have been urged to be cautious after descending on central London ahead of a historic Euros clash with England at Wembley.
Despite London’s mayor Sadiq Khan urging those without tickets to tonight’s game not to travel due to coronavirus restrictions, thousands have made the trip down to the capital.
Supporters wearing their country’s shirts, flags and kilts have been chanting, singing and playing bagpipes at Leicester Square, Kings Cross and Hyde Park.
Videos on social media showed fans in large gatherings, with some even taking a dip in a fountain which had been filled with bubbles.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon echoed the warning for Scottish fans to stay away from London.
She urged the Tartan Army to be responsible with their actions, and stick to the local rules in order to avoid making the situation down south worse or bringing the virus back home on their return.
She said: “I don’t want to sound like the killjoy in all of this, I am looking forward to watching the match tonight just like everybody else is.
“Please be careful though. And if you have travelled to London I would say two things. Be respectful to our hosts in London, don’t behave in a way that is going to make their Covid problem worse over the next few weeks.
“And try not to behave in a way that might raise the risk of you bringing the virus back home to your own loved ones.
“Enjoy the match, enjoy the occasion, we’re all hoping for a good outcome to the match tonight, but please be careful and be safe and follow all the rules.
“Make sure you behave in a way that shows the Tartan Army at its best. Enjoy it, but please, please, please try to behave in a way that is a safe as possible.”
Sturgeon warned that Covid will not give them a “free pass” because they are there for the game.
She said: “I know these precautions are tiresome for everybody in every context and they’re particularly tiresome when people are trying to enjoy the normal pleasures of a football match.
“But this virus, it doesn’t care about football – it’s not a Scotland fan or an England fan, it only cares about spreading from one person to another.”
The much-anticipated match is the 115th in international football’s oldest rivalry, and marks the first time the two sides have met in a major tournament since England’s 2-0 win in Euro 96.
Scotland fan Rab Foulis said supporters were “bringing a party atmosphere” to the city and “helping London’s economy”.
Speaking near Kings Cross, Foulis said he had been waiting 23 years since wanting to go to the 1998 World Cup in France, where Scotland played their last major tournament but his wife did not let him.
Ecstatic that his new wife has allowed him to go to the Euros, he told the Press Association: “We waited 23 years.
“Everybody’s throwing a party atmosphere. We’ve all had double vaccinations and we’re saying, you know what, why is Britain as a country still holding the economy back?
“So we’re here and we’re helping London’s economy.”
Another fan Mark Graham said: “It’s a pity but it looks like Scotland will make their own fan zones.
“We’ve booked a pub for last night and a pub for tonight so we’re well prepared.”
Scotland supporter Gordon Mackey, from Dunblane, said: “I’m a big fan and it’s been a long time actually, I think the last time I enjoyed this was 1990 and watched Scotland lose to Costa Rica and there was just as much excitement.
“We thought we were going to win the World Cup but today could be the same, so it’s always good to enjoy the party before.”
Wembley Stadium in north-west London will host 22,500 people for the game at 8pm on Friday.
Fans are predicted to buy 3.4 million pints during the game, while a total of 14.8 million will be sold across England and Scotland on match day, according to estimates by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).
This comes as the Met Police’s football chief has warned fans not to travel to Wembley without a ticket.
Chief Inspector Joseph Stokoe said: “It’s a shame, it feels like there aren’t enough places for the fans to enjoy themselves, but that’s why the message has always been – if you don’t have a ticket, don’t travel.
“Enjoy the match, enjoy the event locally, in a safer event… don’t come here, because unfortunately because of what’s gone on across the world, we’ve been unable to provide the amount of fan zones you might expect in normal times.”
He said officers have been reminding fans that some Londoners are “still living under the fear of the pandemic”, adding that spreading the Met’s resources between fighting crime and policing the football is “a balancing act”.
Back north of the border, the first minister had a message for people gathering with family and friends to watch the game.
In Friday’s coronavirus briefing, Sturgeon urged everyone to remember Covid guidelines on issues such as social distancing and “be careful if, or hopefully when, Scotland score some goals”.
She said: “It’s only natural many of us want to watch this game with friends, that sense of being in a shared experience is one of the many things that make watching our national team so special.
“But please… remember if you are watching the match tonight to continue to take care.
“In particular if you are gathering inside your own house or somebody else’s house, please stick to the limits, and that at the moment is six people from three households.
“The point of these limits is to try to restrict spread of the virus, because indoors we know is much higher risk than outdoors.
“Please remember to take the basic precautions, keep windows open, wash your hands regularly and please be especially carefully around people who aren’t yet fully vaccinated or might be more vulnerable.”
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