Scottish football is facing a potential £6 million shortfall if supporters are not allowed to attend the rescheduled international and Scottish Cup fixtures at Hampden in the remainder of 2020.
The Scottish FA announced the new dates for the outstanding semi-finals and final of their 2019-20 flagship club competition at their annual general meeting yesterday.
The last-four ties, in which Hearts will play Hibs and holders Celtic will face Aberdeen, will now take place at Hampden over the weekend of 31 October and 1 November with the final at the national stadium on 20 December.
Hampden is also due to host four Scotland internationals – the Nations League matches against Israel (4 September), Slovakia (11 October) and Czech Republic (14 October), along with the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against the Israelis on 8 October.
Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell hopes the first game against Israel will be approved by the Scottish government as a test event in front of spectators if lockdown restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic continue to be eased.
But if the internationals have to be played behind closed doors, it would mean a loss of around £3 million to the Scottish FA. If the same scenario applies to the Scottish Cup semi-finals and final, when gate receipts are pooled among the competing clubs, another £3 million would be lost.
“That’s the worse case scenario with no spectators at all at any of those games,” said Maxwell, pictured. “The conversations we are having with government, talking about a gradual return of spectators, would reduce that. But those are the kind of numbers we are looking at.
“I don’t think we can be confident what the capacity for matches at Hampden will be, because there are so many unknowns. No-one can give us any clarity.
“You could set out a plan which saw you get close to full capacity but if there is a second spike, you don’t know. We really just need to work as hard as we can with government to make sure we can accommodate as many spectators as it is safe to do so.”
The Scottish FA reported annual revenue of £37.9m at the agm, a slight increase on the figure last year, with £11.3m of it distributed to member clubs. But Maxwell admits to uncertainty over how the governing body’s finances will hold up over the next 12 months as the consequences of Covid-19 unfold.
“It will be some sort of a loss next year as there are a lot of things that haven’t happened and that we won’t get back,” he said
“But if we can get spectators back into the stadium then we can mitigate that figure.
“It’s far too early to say with any certainty what that number will be. It’s about trying to drive as much revenue as we can and being as effective as we can in terms of controlling the cost base.”
Completing last season’s Scottish Cup was regarded as crucial by the Scottish FA in that regard, although it means there will be changes to the format of the 2020-21 tournament which could include the scrapping of replays to help ease the obvious fixture congestion issues clubs will face in the new season.
“We are having those conversations at the moment,” added Maxwell. “We are speaking to the clubs.
“We have a meeting on Friday to outline the 2020-21 format. It’s going to have to be different, because ordinarily the preliminary rounds would be starting early next month.
“At this point in time, we don’t know when the number of clubs eligible to play in the 2020-21 competition will be able to be back playing football.
“We are going to have to make changes to the format and the most appropriate way to deal with that is to make sure the clubs hear the plans first.
“The fixture calendar is obviously a real challenge this year, which was one of the factors in finding the new dates for the semi-finals and final of the 2019-20 tournament.
“We have one of the semi-finalists, Hearts, potentially not starting their season until October, notwithstanding the outcome of the arbitration case. They need to be given a chance to get ready.
“We have international windows with hugely significant games within them. The overriding ambition was to leave it as late as we possibly could to maximise the opportunity to get spectators into what is our biggest game of the season.
“I actually think a late December Scottish Cup final will be really interesting and could be a really special event under the lights at Hampden.
“The financial driver to complete the 2019-20 tournament is club-led, as much as anything. The gate receipts are pooled between the semi-finalists and finalists and we have a distribution model which pays out over the course of the campaign.
“We have the 2020-21 competition to start, while there is also the complication of the Betfred Cup rescheduling. So it made sense from a sponsorship perspective to have a clean break between this one finishing and the next one starting.”
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