Covid: We must find a way for fans to return to Scotland's football clubs – Scotsman comment

Given the buzz and excitement that surrounds the prospect of multi-million-pound deals in the run-up to transfer deadline day, one could be forgiven for thinking that football is awash with money and an area of least concern in these troubled times.

However, the situation for Scotland’s smaller clubs is radically different to that of Scotland’s biggest clubs, let alone the giants of Europe.

Iain McMenemy, chairman of Stenhousemuir, last month warned the financial situation was simply unsustainable for clubs outside Scotland’s top tier. For many of them, the absence of fans means the absence of significant income.

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With suggestions that the Scottish Government is planning a “circuit-breaker” lockdown to try to interrupt the current rise in Covid infections, this may not be the right time for fans to go back.

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But, the break should provide time for officials and clubs to work together to find ways to enable this to happen as soon as possible thereafter.

Being outdoor, football stadiums allow relatively easy social distancing and, providing fans can enter and leave safely, it should be possible to allow at least some supporters back into grounds, as seen in the US at American football games.

Scotland’s smaller clubs are not just about sport, they are also important to the communities in which they are based – that is why they have survived for so long despite relatively small crowds. For many of those involved, they are a labour of love.

Even if the initial crowds must be small, we do need to start to allow fans to return as soon as it is safe to do so.

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