Sports minister seeks rescue package for Scottish sport from UK government

Warning of ‘catastrophic consequences’ for Scottish football

Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 7:39 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 10:14 pm
The return of supporters has been postponed.
The return of supporters has been postponed.

The Scottish sports minister has written to his UK counterpart seeking urgent discussions on a financial rescue package for Scottish sport following a warning of the “catastrophic” consequences of fans not attending games.

It comes after Tuesday’s announcement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that the return of supporters to sports grounds has been postponed until the national outlook for Covid-19 improves significantly.

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Scottish football depends on ticket revenue far more than the vast majority of professional leagues across Europe and the situation has been described as “grave” by Neil Doncaster, chief executive of the Scottish Professional Football League, who has warned that clubs’ very existence is now under threat.

“We are engaging with the Scottish Government to underline the existential threat to many of our clubs, and to the huge community, economic and sporting benefits they deliver, if this grave situation continues without meaningful public financial support,” Doncaster said.

“We therefore welcome the intervention of the Scottish Government in seeking urgent discussions with the UK Government about a package of financial recovery for Scottish sport.”

Joe FitzPatrick MSP, the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, has written to the UK Minister for Sport and Civil Society seeking “urgent discussions regarding a package of financial recovery for sport, accessible to Scotland”.

Pilot test events with fans have also been put on hold. A plan to have 650 spectators on each of the weekend days at next week’s Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club in East Lothian has been scrapped.

Scottish football’s Coronavirus Joint Response Group has highlighted concerns about the impact the latest government announcement will have on the game given its reliance on gate money.

“The game in Scotland depends on ticket revenue far more than the vast majority of professional leagues across Europe,” the JRG said in a statement. “We usually see over five million supporters per season attending Scottish league matches - with 43% of all revenue generated via gate receipts.

“The prospect of that vital income being lost for the majority of the season - far less in its entirety - could be catastrophic for many of our clubs. We are committed to working with government to avert that crisis.”

Rod Petrie, SFA president and JRG chair, said: “It is... incumbent on us to safeguard the futures of our football clubs, whilst at the same time respecting and adhering to public health guidelines.”

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