Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster has welcomed a “return to normality” as the new football season begins, but urged fans to show “all that is good” about the game.
The cinch Premiership, Championship, League 1 and League 2 all begin again this weekend and Doncaster highlighted the fact that this time last year, football was still operating under Covid restrictions that limited attendances across the country.
Now, with restrictions lifted, there will be large crowds at a number of grounds and Doncaster said that was vital to the sport.
He said: “At the end of every close season, there is always a huge feeling of anticipation amongst fans, players and managers, but this year there is a sense that this is the return of something very special, with clubs able to operate under normal conditions again.
“The restrictions caused by Covid were hugely difficult for clubs and fans, and the entire Scottish game should be incredibly proud of how it dealt with those enormous challenges.
“Scottish football is more reliant on gate receipts than the vast majority of other leagues, so getting fans back into the grounds is not only hugely important for the atmosphere and performance in the pitch, it is also crucial for our clubs’ business models.
“The vast and overwhelming majority of Scottish football fans bring a passion and energy to games that is not found anywhere else. They are the lifeblood of our game. Indeed, SPFL attendances, in normal years, are invariably the highest per head of population in Europe.”
However, the SPFL chief also took time to warn against disorder at grounds, noting the rise in misbehaviour in England and pledging to crack down on any incidents at Scottish grounds.
Doncaster said: “It would be fantastic if all we are talking about is the quality of the football rather than the unacceptable behaviour of a few fans who cause trouble, and having spoken to clubs across all four divisions, I know they are all hoping for a trouble-free season.
“While pitch invasions like those which were depressingly frequent down south at the end of last season are not something we commonly see in Scottish football, we are not complacent and in the coming season, we will be working hard with our colleagues at Police Scotland, club safety officers and other authorities to ensure that anyone misbehaving is going to found and punished severely.
“Clubs have invested heavily in CCTV systems, stewarding and policing but the vast majority of decent fans also have a crucial role to play in pointing out unacceptable behaviour, so that we can all focus on the things that make Scottish football so uniquely exciting.”