Coronavirus case study: The cost to a lower division club

Stenhousemuir chairman Iain McMenemy on ‘potentially grave financial implications’ of playing behind closed doors

Stenhousemuir's last home gate at Ochilview was 581. Picture: Rob Casey / SNS
Stenhousemuir's last home gate at Ochilview was 581. Picture: Rob Casey / SNS

It is all still so fluid. We do not know what is happening. We could potentially limit our crowds to 500 if the league was still in action.

But what happens if one of our players comes in and says he’s showing symptoms of coronavirus and has to self-isolate, and, because he was in training the night before, the whole squad has to self-isolate?

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If we could not complete our fixtures, what happens then? Do we forfeit our place in the league? It is just really difficult to work out.

As for streaming games played behind closed doors, very few teams below the Premiership could do that without bringing in equipment. You could stick up a camera and stream the action but if there’s more than about 12 people watching you are going to have buffering issues.

Plus, you would have to do it in such a way that it would only stream to homes, otherwise you defeat the whole purpose of supposedly stopping people gathering in pubs to watch.

As a club we have had a brief chat about suspending the season, cancelling it or playing behind closed doors. We are not sure what would be the best option.

If the virus really took hold and lots of players, managers and physios were struck down and you could not fulfil your fixtures, would you push the season back? Meanwhile you are still paying wages with no gate receipts coming in. These are potentially grave financial implications.

Last year I think the figure for the Premiership was 45 per cent of income came from gate receipts, which is completely different from England, where the majority of the income is from broadcasters. Of course, the figure is higher still in the lower leagues.

Income from however many home games you have left is what you are banking on to cover the wage bill towards the end of the season and before the summer.

We have three home games left, which is better than some others who might have five or six. One of the three is against local rivals Stirling Albion, where we would expect a bigger than normal crowd and the hospitality is already sold out.

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Whatever way it falls in terms of a decision from the SFA/SPFL it will be difficult for us. Clubs could potentially go under because of this. At the same time you have to go with medical advice. It’s like staring in the abyss and not knowing what is around the corner. It’s an unprecedented situation to be in.