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Scottish football in crisis

SPFL: Our game might need Holyrood help to survive

Worried: Neil Doncaster (pic: SNS Group)

Scottish football could be on the verge of collapse without financial support from Holyrood, according to authorities.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster made the stark warning after a meeting with Joe FitzPatrick, Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing to look into the effects of the pandemic on spectator sports.

With little prospect of fans being allowed to attend matches any time soon due to Covid-19, authorities are deeply concerned the effect this will have on clubs, who have not seen any action since football stopped in March.

“We gave the minister a frank summary of the existential crisis our game is facing,” said Doncaster.

“Gate receipts make up a far higher proportion of our income than in England, which benefits from huge TV deals, so until we get back to playing in front of crowds, our game will remain in grave peril.

“It was encouraging to hear the minister recognise the social and health benefits of football in Scotland, which generates hundreds of millions of pounds for the Scottish economy annually.

“As sport is a devolved responsibility, we’ll continue to be guided by the Scottish Government’s health experts on when we are able to resume matches, but that looks to be some while away.

“Gate receipts make up a far higher proportion of our income than in England, which benefits from huge TV deals, so until we get back to playing in front of crowds, our game will remain in grave peril.

– Neil Doncaster, SPFL chief executive

“We have already seen the UK Government pledging £16m support to Rugby League in England to prevent it from being devastated by COVID-19.

“The longer we are unable to play matches in Scotland, the more essential will be significant financial support for our hard-pressed national sport.”

Doncaster was joined on the video conference call by SFA counterpart Ian Maxwell, Scottish Rugby’s Dominic McKay, Scottish Racing’s Jonathan Garratt and Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s National Clinical Director.

The Joint Response Group representatives laid out the challenges specific to Scottish football – financial, sporting, logistical and infrastructural – and outlined the framework for the Scottish Football Restart project announced last week.

Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA chief executive: “It was an important introductory step in mapping-out how football can continue to respect the measures put in place to protect public health, while at the same planning for the reintroduction of the game at the appropriate time whilst ensuring the survival of our clubs in the meantime.

“The minister and the national clinical director both acknowledged the importance of the national sport to the health and wellbeing of the country but, understandably, reiterated the need to respect the current measures in place to save lives by containing the spread of the virus as outlined by the First Minister.

“We outlined the pragmatic steps that we believe can assist in safeguarding the survival of our clubs in the short term, and in the coming weeks help clubs emerge from lockdown and begin the process of preparing for the reintroduction of football.

“We also reiterated that supporters attending matches is a fabric of Scottish football, and integral to the matchday experience and future viability of the sport.”

“I know my colleagues at the five Scottish racecourses, as well as the many training establishments in the region, will share the view that a safe resumption of racing, at the appropriate time, will help safeguard livelihoods and provide a huge boost to communities, but that safety is everyone’s primary concern.

– Jonathan Garratt, Scottish Racing

Garratt, the managing director of Kelso Racecourse, added: “We all want sport to return as quickly as possible, but the first consideration is the protection of public health, participants and customers.

“I know my colleagues at the five Scottish racecourses, as well as the many training establishments in the region, will share the view that a safe resumption of racing, at the appropriate time, will help safeguard livelihoods and provide a huge boost to communities, but that safety is everyone’s primary concern.

“Many people are keen to know when horse racing can resume, but this meeting was very much about why it is important and how we are creating a framework for it to happen.”

McKay, Scottish Rugby’s chief operating officer said: “This is an encouraging first meeting which generated constructive dialogue and a timely chance to collaborate with other sports.

“We would welcome the opportunity to meet again and agreed to share any relevant information and learnings we have with both Scottish Government and other sports to aid progress at this time.”



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