Scottish football in 'grave peril' facing as sport bodies meet government

By Chris McLaughlinBBC Scotland sports news correspondent
Sport Minister Joe Fitzpatrick
Joe Fitzpatrick (pictured) and Professor Jason Leitch held a virtual meeting

Scottish football will "remain in grave peril" until games resume in front of paying supporters, SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster has warned.

The heads of key governing bodies met government ministers to discuss the resumption of sport across Scotland.

The Scottish FA, SPFL, Scottish Rugby and others were invited to a virtual summit with sport minister Joe Fitzpatrick and professor Jason Leitch.

Doncaster gave an account of the "existential crisis" facing the game.

The meeting discussed the financial and economic impact of Covid-19 on sport and how and when sport can resume safely were discussed.

Fitzpatrick said he was "encouraged by today's constructive initial talks".

Doncaster made the distinction between the challenges facing Scottish and English football.

"We gave the minister a frank summary of the existential crisis our game is facing," he said. "Gate receipts make up a far higher proportion of our income than in England, which benefits from huge TV deals, so until we get back to playing in front of crowds, our game will remain in grave peril.

"We have already seen the UK Government pledging £16m support to Rugby League in England to prevent it from being devastated by COVID-19. The longer we are unable to play matches in Scotland, the more essential will be significant financial support for our hard-pressed national sport."

Rugby and football
Professional sport has been suspended since March

First minister Nicola Sturgeon said recently sport would not be returning anytime soon and Fitzpatrick insists it "can only happen once it is safe to do so - and the focus at the moment must be the continuation of measures to slow the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives".

"We have to develop a phased return for sport, which reflects Scotland's circumstances," he added.

The prospect of staging sporting events behind closed doors was expected to play a key part in the discussions, with Scottish Rugby due to provide details of their plan to use Murrayfield as a bio-safe hub in order to get players back training and eventually stage competitive matches.

The rugby body are also keen on greater collaboration between sporting organisations in the fight against the global coronavirus pandemic.

Sportscotland, who have released £16.4m to struggling governing bodies and clubs, say they "recognise the financial strain which many organisations, clubs and communities are under at this time and are committed to continuing our support to the sporting system".

"As such, we will continue to work with each sport and local partner to determine what further financial support may be required," they added.

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