OLD Firm fans have been told to stay at home and avoid large gatherings – or risk arrest.

Police Scotland has launched a major operation ahead of the derby to prevent scenes similar to those a fortnight ago, when thousands of Rangers fans flouted lockdown rules to celebrate their title win.

Officers have warned both Rangers and Celtic fans that any breach of the rules could result in arrests.

Both clubs have also appealed to supporters to heed the safety advice, with officers speaking with fan groups to ensure the rules are followed.

In the event that they are not, however, police plans are in place to stop gatherings at hotspot areas, including Ibrox, Celtic Park and George Square.

Assistant Chief Constable Higgins told the BBC: "For the past week we have been heavily engaging with the fans groups – sending out a consistent message to stay at home. The response has indicated this is what they will do."

He said the potential for fans to gather illegally was there, but that a "significant policing operation" was in place to deal with that.

"Hopefully we won't have to deploy the assets we have available."

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He added: "If you come out to Celtic Park, George Square, Ibrox Stadium or anywhere else in Glasgow on Sunday, be prepared to be engaged by my officers. We will encourage you to leave and if you don't heed that warning then potentially you are opening yourself up to being arrested."

The Old Firm game, which kicks off at noon, was under threat of cancellation after Rangers fans broke lockdown rules.

Nicola Sturgeon described the scenes as "disgraceful" and police bemoaned a "lack of support" from the club.

A total of 28 arrests were made, with fixed penalty notices also issued for offences including assaulting police officers, sectarian-related breaches of the peace, breaking Covid rules and the use of pyrotechnics.

It was revealed afterwards that dozens of police officers had been forced to self-isolate due to some positive Covid cases among officers who policed the incident.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf announced on Friday that the game would go ahead following "extensive engagement" with the clubs, the SPFL, Police Scotland and Glasgow City Council.

Higgins added: "This isn't about a single game of football. It's not even about the next Old Firm game at Ibrox. It's about not jeopardising and compromising the Scottish government's plan which will see the restrictions gradually lifted.

"We don't want a mass outbreak of the disease in Glasgow or the surrounding areas because people have acted irresponsibly which then leads to a review of the route out of lockdown plan."

National clinical director Jason Leitch said he was pleased with both clubs’ responses to safety pleas.

He told the BBC: "We have been talking to the clubs for 10 days now, and I have been very impressed with their response. Captains, managers, police, all putting out the same message which is pretty straightforward.

"Stay at home, watch the game on the TV and don't go out to celebrate or commiserate. Just stay at home."