Thursday 7th May 2020
EARLIER this week, the chief execs of the SPFL and SFA took part in a virtual roundtable with Joe FitzPatrick, Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Professor Jason Leitch, the National Clinical Director, and representatives from Scottish Rugby and Scottish Racing.
The roundtable was convened by the Scottish Government to identify commonalities among high-attendance spectator sports in respect of COVID-19 and its impact.
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, commented: “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. We were encouraged by the input of the Minister and Professor Leitch and look forward to building on this introductory meeting in the near future.”
Neil Doncaster, SPFL Chief Executive, said: “We gave the Minister a frank summary of the existential crisis our game is facing. 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.
“We have already seen the UK Government pledging £16 million 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.”