Ross County manager Stuart Kettlewell has said the delay in fans returning to stadia makes for a “critical” time in Scottish football but hopes clubs will work together to overcome the financial problems they face.
The announcement by government on Tuesday that further restrictions were needed to fight the rise of coronavirus, included news that an expected date for the phased return of supporters to stadia was “unlikely” to be met.
The news, and the implications for clubs throughout the game, have prompted fresh warnings of widespread financial problems that could spell the end for some clubs.
Kettlewell said the delay to fans’ return was disappointing but not unexpected.
He added County and owner Roy MacGregor may be in a position to help their Betfred Cup group stage opponents with the cost of Covid-19 testing when the competition starts next week.
Teams from the championship. League One and League Two won’t be expected to carry out coronavirus testing when they play each other on league duty but are expected to follow the stricter protocol when they play County in the cup competition.
“I think it’s a critical time for Scottish football,” Kettlewell said.
“We’ve all had to show an incredible amount of resilience. It’s been tough for us all, no matter what walk of life you’re in.
“I see this now as being another hurdle to be overcome. We all have to be pretty smart and make sure we stick together one as a club, but two as a body of football in this country.
“I know there have been talks within our club to try to help other clubs along the way.
“I think there is the prospect looking towards Betfred Cup games for us to try to ensure that these take place.
“It is our full intention that these four games in the group section go ahead in whatever way possible.
“You guys know Roy and how much he’s an advocate of football in the Highlands so it’s safe to say there maybe a gesture in there to help out one or two of the clubs along the way.
“To what extent that will be I can’t confirm but I think there will be something there.”
The County boss said his club had taken a safety-first approach to budgeting when the effects of the pandemic were first felt and that it put them in a position where they felt they could ride out the worst in the short-term.
“We were very proactive back in March and April about where we saw the situation going,” he said. “We sort of had a ‘Plan A, B and C’.
“Plan A was not having any supporters in the ground. That was how we budgeted and how we saw it. Anything else that came on top of that was going to be a bonus for us.
“I know that’s a very pessimistic view but at the time we also felt it was a realistic view. Obviously as the months and weeks have gone on then it’s shown signs of improvement but we had to be aware of what the situation was and how it could change in a matter of days or weeks, as it has done.
“From our point of view, we feel not comfortable with the situation but as a football club we feel we’re comfortable in the sense that there aren’t any supporters coming in the near future but we’re braced for that.
“I’m a huge advocate for Scottish football and I said back at the start that I want to see all clubs survive this. We’re not talking about reducing clubs or accepting that we lose a few. I think that it was about us all working together to get through a horrendous situation.
“I do, however, believe that it was important that clubs looked into the sense that this could have come. We’ve spoken for many a month that there could be a second wave and this could develop.
“Far be it for me to tell clubs how to budget and how to operate financially but I think we all had to have this at the back of our mind. Therefore, not overspend and not live outwith our means.”