Scottish football could resume in July with multiple fixtures played at regional ‘hub’ stadiums across the country in front of socially-distanced supporters.
It is one of the options being considered by Scottish Football Restart, the project name created by the Scottish FA/SPFL Joint Response Group as they look to plot the sport’s way out of the coronavirus crisis.
Rod Petrie, the Scottish FA president and chairman of the JRG, has provided an update on the work of six sub-groups set up to formulate what he describes as a ‘viable plan’ for football’s return.
The SPFL have already targeted a resumption in July for the group stage of the 2020-21 Betfred Cup with the new league season scheduled to start the following month.
It remains to be seen if the pace of Scotland’s emergence from current lockdown restrictions will be sufficient to allow any spectators to attend matches whenever they do get underway.
The Joint Response Group will be guided by government advice but while they are also looking into behind closed doors matches, they have not ruled out some fans being allowed into grounds.
“The utilisation of ‘hub’ stadiums across the country with potential to host multiple matches over a weekend, centralise match day resourcing and manage spectator safety was discussed,” revealed the update. “Positives and negatives were noted and it was agreed that each sub group would consider this model as part of their ongoing activity.”
It adds that ‘scenario planning for supporter inclusion at matches (has been) undertaken on the principle of 2m social distancing measures’ with consideration for ‘identifying ‘hub’ stadiums across the country with potential to host multiple matches over a weekend, centralise match day resourcing and manage spectator safety’.
But in the event of behind closed doors games being necessary, the sale of ‘virtual season tickets’ has been mooted with games being streamed online. Uefa have already lifted a regulation which previously blocked live matches from being televised in the UK at 3pm on Saturday afternoons.
Separate groups will look at how the different models will work for the Premiership and the lower three divisions of the SPFL, with the regional ‘hub’ concept more likely to be used in the Championship, League 1 and League 2.
“I would like to thank the sub groups for the dutiful way in which they have embraced the challenges and responsibilities placed before them in finding a viable plan to restart Scottish football,” said Petrie.
“At this juncture I would also like to acknowledge the clear guidance and pragmatic approach from the Scottish Government which anchor our plans in reality, and are based on sound medical advice and expertise.
“Naturally, we all wish to see football return as quickly as possible but we must continue to adhere to the guidance of the Chief Medical Officer whilst using the power of football to convey messages that will keep people safe and at home.
“The work of the sub groups shows the breadth and depth of work being undertaken to ensure a smooth and safe return at the appropriate time.”