THERE is a growing gap in the finances of the large and smaller football clubs in Scotland’s top league, according to a survey.
Finance directors of 67 teams in the UK - including six from the Scottish Premiership - were questioned by accountants BDO, with all the Scottish clubs saying they believed the wealth gap between the largest and smallest clubs in the league is widening.
Across the UK, 94 per cent said they feel there is a growing gap between richer and poorer clubs.
However, experts said clubs appear to have learned the financial lessons of the last few years, with 83 per cent of Scottish clubs stating their position as very healthy or not bad.
Just one of the clubs said it did not expect to make a profit, with half predicting improved sales of match tickets.
Charles Barnett, professional sports group partner at BDO, said: “There is no mortgaging the future through season ticket advances and clubs appear to have made a conscious decision to live within their means.
“That there is a growing gap between the larger and smaller clubs may be of concern if we are to maintain a high quality of football in the future. This situation is being exactly mirrored in the EPL (English Premier League) where a small number of super clubs are breaking away from the majority of the league with budgets and expenditure beyond the wildest dreams of most teams.”
With former top tier clubs Rangers, Hearts and Hibs now all in the Championship, Mr Barnett said it would be “interesting” to see what difference the increased fan base would have on that league.
“The last few years have undoubtedly seen an enormous and unprecedented shake-up in the finances of Scottish football. Nobody would have predicted even a year ago that three of the stalwarts of Scottish football would be in a lower division,” he added.
“It remains to be seen whether this may turn out to be a positive development in financially boosting the lower divisions, but for Scottish football it has been a wake-up call that the high spending excesses of previous decades are long gone and that financial reality must rule in future.”
Among reported concerns for clubs was potential falling attendances and the ability to attract sponsorship. All clubs said finding suitable sponsors is becoming harder, although one third said revenues are increasing from commercial contracts.
Just one club said it would be increasing the first-team squad size, with four stating it will remain the same and one saying it will be smaller. Two-thirds of the clubs stated they have clauses in player contracts which stipulate wages will be cut if the team is relegated.
Mr Barnett added: “If the gap between the larger and smaller clubs continues then, ultimately, will the larger teams want to continue to compete in a smaller league if improved financial opportunities lie elsewhere? Equally how will the smaller clubs ever catch up with the larger ones if the gap continues to grow?
“There are potential answers to these issues but Scottish football perhaps needs to indulge in some more soul searching before an acceptable resolution can be found. The future must lie in youth development and improving home grown talent but that will require input from a wider array of individuals, teams and organisations if it is to be successful.”