SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster has hinted that Scottish football may require a government bailout to survive the global health crisis [spfl.co.uk].
Doncaster’s quotes formed part of an official Response Group Update published on Tuesday afternoon following a meeting between the SFA, the SPFL, Scottish Rugby, Scottish Racing, National Clinical Director Jason Leitch and Joe FitzPatrick, the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing.
Relatively positive comments were made by SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell, who referred to the virtual meeting as ‘an important introductory step’ while also reporting that the government representatives had accepted the importance of football and of taking steps to ensure the survival of clubs [spfl.co.uk].
However, Doncaster was keen to get across the dangers facing the Scottish game amid these unprecedented times.
“We gave the Minister a frank summary of the existential crisis our game is facing,” he said, as quoted by spfl.co.uk. “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.”
“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.
“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.”
This meeting took place after German top-flight clubs were reportedly notified that the Bundesliga would be cleared to restart on 15 May [Daily Mail]. However, infection rates there are much lower than in the UK and there’s clearly going to be no miracle restart in Scotland.
There’s no hint of dispute from either Maxwell or Doncaster and it’s clear that both the SPFL and the SFA will comply with government guidelines going forward.
However, Doncaster is clearly suggesting that if complying with guidelines means no football for an extended period, the government will need to supply funds to help keep Scottish clubs afloat.
Payments have been released to clubs in three of the four SPFL tiers and there’s around £7 million in prize money waiting to be released if and when the Premiership campaign is declared over.
That money won’t last forever, though, and it’s tough to see how all 42 association clubs will survive in the long-term without state intervention.