Aberdeen chairman warns that games could be played without fans for rest of year

Dave Cormack envisages empty stadiums with matches being broadcast into supporters’ homes

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack. Picture: Bill Murray / SNS
Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack. Picture: Bill Murray / SNS

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack has expressed fears that Scottish football will be played out behind closed doors for the rest of the year as the world faces a protracted struggle against the coronavirus pandemic.

The American-based businessman has revealed he has held private conversations with owners of major sports franchises in the United States in which they admitted they are planning for no sports being contested in front of crowds in 2020, and Cormack sees little reason why the situation should differ on this side of the Atlantic.

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Asked if he thought such a scenario could happen in Scotland, Cormack said: “That is really a question for all the clubs. We think we are a well-run club. No debt, cash in the bank, and I just think as a group of clubs that is one thing we need to start working on.

“What if, for example, there are no games going to be played in front of crowds till towards the end of the year. And what I can tell you is, having talked to a number of owners of major sports franchises in the States, privately they are planning for no sports played in front of crowds until the end of this year.”

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Uefa has lifted the “blocked hours” protection granted to Scotland and England for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, paving the way for games to be played behind closed doors if necessary to complete the campaign. The Saturday 3pm blackout, in place since the 1950s to protect attendances, will be removed allowing the broadcast of matches at that time.

Cormack mooted the introduction for virtual season tickets for next season to address the potential for half the campaign being played behind closed doors, with fans watching broadcasts in their homes.

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The UK’s full lockdown is expected to continue for the next two months. Cormack stressed that the likelihood of a staggered, partial lifting thereafter made it difficult to see how football will be able to return to normal across the summer months.

“Think about it this way, here’s the rationale,” Cormack told BBC Radio Scotland. “We’ve just hit an economic shutdown. In the Sates, we’ve gone from full employment, absolutely full employment, to the worst unemployment crash since the Great Depression. Most of these people are on furlough, which is probably a good thing, because when the economy comes back they are employed.

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“But the other thing is this, if you think about Asia just now, they relaxed some of the isolation laws and the virus has come back.

“So let’s say we are able to relax the isolation in June or July. Can you go and be playing games the next day in front of 10, 20, 30, 70,000 people? Probably not likely. We can’t just be blinkered and look at the next few months and go ‘hey, we’re starting football in June or July’.

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“We must make absolutely sure that, anything we do we look after players and their health. So, first and foremost, even behind closed doors, is it safe for the players to play? And if it is safe for the players to play, we need to come up with a plan.

“I chatted to Ron Gordon, pictured, at Hibs yesterday, who is down in Miami, and my view is that we need to pull something together for all the games to be shown live. I’m just taking out loud here. But, for example, [it could be that] the season tickets the fans are buying right now would allow them to see the games live as a regular crowd, or live on television. I’m probably getting ahead of myself here but I just think it is important for us to plan for what might be.”

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