Government urged to help struggling Scottish football clubs

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard calls for aid fund to help clubs deal with the loss of ticket income during pandemic.

Government urged to help struggling Scottish football clubs SNS

The Scottish Government is being urged to set up a new football aid fund to help struggling clubs deal with the loss of ticket income during the coronavirus pandemic.

With matches in the Scottish Premiership being played behind closed doors, and with the lower leagues not having returned yet, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard demanded action.

He said the lack of fans in games was a “devastating blow” to clubs’ incomes – warning some could even go bust as a result.

To tackle this he said a “generous system of grants” should be in place, calling on ministers to set up a Scottish football aid fund “without delay”.

Non-league, semi-professional and community clubs should be prioritised for funding, but Labour believes professional clubs could be eligible for assistance – particularly to help with community outreach projects.

Mr Leonard said: “The absence of crowds is a devastating blow to the incomes and even survival hopes of many clubs, the length and breadth of Scotland.

“Losing the all-important ticket money, matchday programme sales and income from pre-match and half-time refreshments will continue to bite in the weeks and months ahead.

“There’s a particularly grave danger for smaller clubs, which are reliant on these vital matchday income streams from crowds of supporters for their very survival.”

Mr Leonard warned community work done by clubs across Scotland could be put in jeopardy without support.

He said: “Not only are many of these clubs historically the lifeblood of Scottish football in terms of producing some of the nation’s greatest ever players, they are also a vital part of the social fabric of our communities.

“Our football clubs play a leading role in running food banks for those in need, promoting the game in deprived communities, as well as countless charity work.

“Yet, much of this vital work could be in peril due to the Covid pandemic.”

The Scottish Labour leader added: “No-one wants to see football clubs go bust, but that is exactly the danger facing our beautiful game unless a generous system of grants is put in place.

“There should also be fans representation on the boards of clubs to help deliver this.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We recognise this has been an enormously challenging time for football and we appreciate the support of supporters, clubs and football authorities over the past months to help us tackle the virus.

“Minister for Sport Joe FitzPatrick has written to his UK counterpart Nigel Huddlestone seeking an urgent meeting to discuss financial recovery support for sport, and the Scottish Government will continue to work closely with the governing bodies of Scottish football to ensure its long-term sustainability.

“This sport has a significant economic impact, but importantly also brings enjoyment to the many people who watch and play, and we don’t want supporters to be delayed in returning to stadiums for any longer than is absolutely necessary.

“However, as the First Minister has said, the virus has not gone away and we all need to keep working to protect the NHS and public services, and help keep people safe.

“If cases continue to rise, be in no doubt, there will be further deaths due to Covid-19.”

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