Chairman’s diary: Time for the haves to help the have-nots before it’s too late

Another day, another disappointment. Hot on the heels of the “cash injection” of £1.5 million from the Scottish FA into clubs, out of which clubs like ours at Stenhousemuir received only £8,000 while the majority was siphoned off into the biggest clubs, there was an announcement of a £3m pot to be shared among SPFL clubs. Our share this time? £1,350.

Stenhousemuir and Hearts players embrace after the League 2 side met the Premiership outfit in a Betfred Cup tie at Tynecastle last July. Picture Michael Gillen.

So from £4.5m funding from the football authorities, clubs such as Stenhousemuir have made less than £10k. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are being poured into the bigger clubs, but the authorities will tell you that they want to “get the strongest and weakest through this”. I’m afraid this is all talk.

The top three clubs in the SPFL were given £395,000 each from the SPFL coffers this week. Only one of those payments, had it been split equally among the entirety of League 2, would probably have saved all ten clubs from going out of business. I’d wager that a second of those payments would have saved League 1 clubs too had it been diverted there. What a positive message that would have been for Scottish football. But the football authorities seem deaf to even the suggestion that maybe we need to adapt and treat this situation as exceptional.

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My message to them is that we are in the most extraordinary of times, we cannot get through it with very ordinary actions.

Yes, we have an agreed distribution of funds model that was set up when the league was established. It was never designed for a situation like this. Yes, bigger clubs face difficulties too. But let’s be honest about the size, scale and discrepancies in the league finances.

The Premiership clubs take 83 per cent of all money in Scottish football and have done so since the league was formed. That is the reality. It is perverse. It is a system of financial apartheid that is backed by a voting structure that effectively gives one or two Premiership clubs a veto over the other 40 clubs.

But here we are, in the most uncertain and, arguably, harrowing of times. The nation is pulling together, political parties that could not be further apart in terms of policy and philosophy are working together for the common good. Capitalist private businesses are turning over vehicles and equipment to the public’s benefit.

Is this not a time for Scottish football to act differently? Is this not the time to support each other? In particular, it is time for the haves to help the have-nots.

Can I see it happening. Not likely.

So what else might be out there? I was impressed by the creative thinking that came out of the Scottish Football Supporters Association this week. They have identified a £5m fund that the Scottish Government was planning to launch to support community investment in sport. The £5m Community Sport Bond was due to be launched later this year. Could this fund be redeployed as a series of loans to clubs to help them through the current difficulties?

A £50k loan from this £5m fund would be enough to secure the majority of lower league clubs. So £1m could save all 20 clubs in Leagues 1 and 2. And these could be loans, so the money could be repaid back into the fund to enable it to pick back up with their community investment plans when the time is right.

This is great creative thinking from the Scottish Football Supporters Association. They are looking for unique solutions for this unique set of circumstances. Why can’t the football authorities do likewise?

So my apologies if I am ending this week and this diary piece with a tone of frustration. That is because that is exactly how I feel, and it is a view echoed across the boardrooms of football clubs throughout Scotland. I know that some of my colleagues in other clubs are signalling that they are very close to going out of business, with financial models that identify this happening in only two to three months.

We need action. Words are just that, nothing more. We’re getting fed up with the grandiose statements from the football authorities about £4.5m of investment in clubs, when the reality sees us getting less than £10k each.

The money has been there within football to act but, instead, it’s been business as usual in terms of seeing that money being distributed.

Maybe next week will bring some fresh hope. Right now, I’m not optimistic.

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