Highland MSP demands Government aid as professional football clubs face the "perfect storm" amid the Covid-19 pandemic
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A Highland MSP is stepping up pressure on the Scottish Government to support professional football clubs hit by the “perfect storm” of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Labour’s David Stewart said the national sport was facing huge financial strain with supporters and hospitality guests still banned from stadiums.
With the Highlands now under “tier one” guidelines nationally, Ross County had applied to allow 750 to a 1000 fans into Victoria Park for Friday evening’s league match against Livingston.
There was also hope that Championship neighbours Caley Thistle, Elgin City and some Highland League clubs would be offered similar opportunities, but these have so far not been granted.
Mr Stewart wants the Holyrood administration to back Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard’s call for creation of a Scottish football aid fund to support clubs hit by the loss of match-day revenue during the crisis.
It follows redundancies at a number of Scottish clubs caused by the catastrophic impact of the pandemic.
In a parliamentary question, the MSP asked Joe Fitpatrick, minister for public health, sport and wellbeing, what advice, guidance and financial assistance was being provided to professional football clubs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister indicated the Scottish Government was working with football authorities and recognised the relative reliance on gate receipts for clubs in Scotland compared to clubs elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
Mr Fitzpatrick also said he had written again today to the UK Sports Minister seeking clarity on the financial package being developed to support sporting organisations hit by the absence of fans..
Mr Stewart said “Professional clubs are facing the perfect storm of very few, or no, fans allowed to attend football matches due to the pandemic.
“The loss of match day revenue from gate sales and hospitality, coupled with clubs having to spend extra on PPE and testing to comply with COVID regulations, is having a significant impact on clubs throughout the country.
“Many are already in a precarious financial position and it is well known that banks are generally uncomfortable lending to football clubs and, as such, many clubs don’t have overdrafts to fall back on.
“Even government schemes like the Covid-19 Business Interruption Loan (CBIL) are ruled out for many clubs as they have to be able to prove they were financially viable before the outbreak.
“This will lead to the demise of football clubs throughout the country unless government starts to support them.
“A football club is more than just a business, it is part of the very fabric of life in our towns and cities.
“Clubs do large amounts to promote health and wellbeing and they do great charity work across the country.
“It will be an absolute tragedy if we lose any of our football clubs.
“Some have been established for over a century or more so I had no qualms in pressing the Scottish Government to look again to see what support clubs can be given.”
The MSP, who is a member of the health and sport committee, has secured its backing to investigate the plight of clubs.
He added: “I was delighted when the committee backed my calls for an inquiry into support for our clubs.
“I hope the Scottish Government and the UK government will ensure financial help is granted for Scottish clubs at all levels as a matter of high priority."