SPFL asks Nicola Sturgeon for ’emergency meeting’ over fans

The league body says that a continued shut-out will sound "death knell" for clubs.

SPFL asks Nicola Sturgeon for ’emergency meeting’ over fans SNS Group

The Scottish Professional Football League has made a formal request to meet with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to discuss the return of fans to football grounds.

The league have described the continued shut-out, which sees games in all four professional leagues played behind closed doors, as a state of emergency and warned that failure to act will see clubs go out of business.

The moves comes after changes to restrictions in England, which set out conditions for supporters to return to stadia. The SPFL says representatives would meet the First Minister “at any time, day or night” to discuss progress.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster 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. 

“Every major club in Scotland has very detailed, well-founded plans in place for safely returning fans back to stadiums, and thousands upon thousands of Scottish fans are simply desperate to get back quickly to watching their teams in the safety of a carefully-managed, open-air environment. 

“We are now calling on the First Minister to do the right thing by Scotland’s hard-pressed football supporters. If it’s good enough for English fans, it must be good enough for Scottish fans.”

Fans have been absent from the vast majority of games since March and clubs up and down the country have warned of dire consequences if they are forced to continue without match day revenue.

Doncaster said that any refusal to allow a carefully controlled return would have to be justfied.

He said: “If the First Minister refuses to allow football fans all over Scotland to watch their beloved teams in carefully-regulated, limited numbers, complete with track and trace, she will have to explain to them the clinical difference between Scottish fans and English fans.  

“Make no mistake, failure to get fans back in the very near future will sound the death knell for some of our best-loved clubs and no-one wants that. 

“The First Minister alone has the opportunity to put a smile on the faces of Scottish football fans and give them a much-needed early Christmas present and we are calling for meaningful, urgent engagement.”

At the Scottish Government’s daily briefing, national clinical director Jason Leitch said: “Mr Doncaster makes a good case for his sector. There isn’t any doubt that he speaks up and in his seat I would do the same.

“Unfortunately it’s not as simple as that. England had a route back for fans and then had four weeks of lockdown and had no route back.

“They’ve since announced a new route back for fans in some of their tiers but not everywhere.

“There is let’s say a mixed opinion within health circles. The chairman of the British Medical Association said it was disappointing that there would be potentially 4000 back in stadia quite soon.

“We are cautious but we have a route back. The route back is lower levels and that depends on prevalence in the community.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t engage in dialogue and the minister for sport, officials, me, others are all happy to engage with the football authorities and to get that back.

“It’s a risk-based choice. We understand the nature of the football business and we need to both support that financially but also support it to get that revenue back.

“But not at the expense of prevalence, hospital admission and death.

“That is the same conversation we have with every sector.”

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