Holyrood decision

Blow for clubs as fan ban to remain in place

Blow: Fan ban is bad news for clubs (pic: SNS Group)

Scottish football clubs hoping for a financial lifeline with the return of fans in greater numbers have been dealt a blow after the Holyrood government said it has “no plans” to relax the current rules on spectators.

There is a limit of 300 supporters allowed into stadiums at the moment and in a crushing blow for clubs in desperate need of fresh income, the Scottish government has confirmed that situation will not be changing for the foreseeable future.

The limited number of spectators is only allowed in council areas in tier 0 or tier 1, with Ross County and Inverness Caledonian Thistle the only two professional teams able to welcome supporters under current lockdown levels.

SNP sports minister Joe Fitzpatrick confirmed the news in a letter to MSPs, saying:  “Given that the situation with the virus remains fragile – with many cases and continuing pressure on the NHS – we are taking a cautious approach, based on a maximum of 300 spectators initially.

“In terms of football, rugby etc, a maximum of 300 supporters are allowed in areas with level zero and level one restrictions.

“We are considering how and when this figure may increase – but it is important to emphasise there is no immediate prospect of an increase given the fragile situation with the virus.

“We have no plans to extend admission to supporters in level two or level three areas.”

The stance is in contrast to the UK government position, with prime minister Boris Johnson allowing up to 4000 spectators into grounds in areas least effected by coronavirus.

The Scottish government’s decision comes after SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster wrote to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asking for an emergency meeting to discuss the current situation.

He said: “Scottish football fans are the most passionate in Europe, with more league attendances per capita than any other country, so our clubs have been hit far harder by the lock-out than those in England because we depend much more heavily on gate receipts.”

TV money not yet paid

The news came as it emerged that a seven-figure sum of television money has yet to be paid to the 42 SPFL clubs because of a delay in signing off the accounts.

The money is from the final payment of last season’s broadcasting deal and has previously been distributed in October.

The SPFL said it can only determine the final amounts due once the accounts are signed off.

It says “a variety of issues are still being finalised and will be clarified in the accounts”.

The Scottish FA estimates the Covid-19 pandemic has cost Scottish football about £70m, with no indication that the government will offer any help.

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