Scottish Championship clubs may 'revolt' or go bust if league resumes behind closed doors with no financial support

Clubs faced with ‘astronomical’ bills for testing players

Somerset Park, home of Ayr United, whose chairman Lachlan Cameron has warned against the financial implications of starting the new Championship season behind closed doors

Any proposal to restart the Scottish Championship behind closed doors could be met with "revolt" from clubs in the second tier unless they are compensated for the loss of income through the gate.

That was the stark message from Ayr United chairman Lachlan Cameron who warned that clubs will be unable to meet the costs of taking players off furlough and paying their full wages, as well as forking out for regular Covid-19 testing, should the game resume without spectators.

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Championship clubs will discuss the possibility of starting the new season behind closed doors in late September or early October, around six weeks after the Premiership with the top-flight aiming to resume sometime in August, during a video conference tomorrow.

The alternative prospect of mothballing the division until January next year – when fans may be more likely to be able to return to grounds – and halving the season to 18 games has also been mooted, but the Ayr chairman has warned any restart without spectators cannot happen without financial support.

Financial package

"We just want to get playing football but we can't unless we have some sort of financial package in place," Cameron told BBC Scotland.

"Playing behind closed doors obviously isn't ideal, but if we can get the players working again I think we'd all be up for that. People tend to forget it's not just about the supporters here, it's also about the players. There's hundreds of players out of work right now and I'm guessing that most of them are desperate to get back playing.

"If we have to play behind closed doors, I'm actually okay with that, although it's not ideal. The problem is the majority of income for Championship clubs and below comes from money through the gates. So if we don't have money through the gates, we can't possibly play without help from somewhere else. Whether that money comes down from the SPFL via FIFA or UEFA, or via the UK or Scottish Government, then I just don't know how we're going to do it.

"We can't afford to pay the players the wages we normally pay without any income coming through the gates and I think you'll find if you tried to do that some clubs would just revolt and not play or you'd have some clubs going into administration sooner than you think."

Cost of testing

Raith Rovers chairman Bill Clark also outlined the financial struggles clubs in the Championship will face in trying to get back up and running in a safe environment, describing the cost of testing players as 'astronomical'.

"We've got estimates and the machine for testing would be £50,000, that's the capital cost, plus £50 per test, so if you add that up, that's a lot of money, which we don't have, especially when they are talking about testing players before every game," he said.

"Investing in a £50,000 machine right now when money is so scarce, and when we can hardly afford to pay the players, it's maybe just too big a step in terms of outlay.

"There's been a suggestion that we might be able to live stream games behind closed doors and get some income from selling that, but then all the safety things come into it as well, and that's a real problem because the cost of testing is astronomical."

On the proposals set to be discussed by Championship clubs tomorrow, Clark added: "I think we'll either be back playing behind closed doors in September or October or maybe not until January. I think these are the only two viable options, but it just takes one club in the Championship to say we can't play behind closed doors for safety reasons and that knocks the whole thing on the head, because if you've not got any opposition you can't play games."

Reconstruction proposals

As it stands, any decision on the Championship will also affect Hearts, who were relegated as the bottom club in the Premiership when the season was declared, but with Ann Budge due to present a second round of league reconstruction proposals this week, the final make-up of the divisions remain up in the air.

Clark added: "Two weeks ago we thought everything was signed and settled, and we would be playing in a 10-team Championship including Hearts, but it's all back to where we were two weeks ago.

"We don't know from our point of view whether we're playing in a league of 10 or 14, or whatever. I just feel we're no further forward with it all. We just don't know how that's going to go."

Players released

Dunfermline became the first Championship club to release all 17 of their out of contract players this week with Queen of the South reportedly set to follow suit, with as many as 15 of their first team squad also out of contract.

Raith on the other hand, who were promoted after finishing one point ahead of Falkirk at the top of League One when the campaign was halted, are intending to use the furlough scheme to extend their players' contracts on a short-term basis, even those who are not being retained for the new season.

"I'm not saying it's 100 per cent certain, but we're going to try and extend the contracts of all our players for one month or maybe two months, so at least the players who got us to the position we're in having won the league have got an income over the summer," he explained.

"The intention would be to keep them on furlough so they'll be at least getting 80 per cent of their wages, and give some of those players that might be getting release some time to look around. They're not going to get signed by another club at this stage, but if they are going to drift out of football it at least gives them a chance to look around and see what's available.

"We're trying to protect the players' income as far as possible. Morally we think that it is the right thing to do by the players but as a board, we've also had discussions about the ethics of using the money from the government scheme.

"We're told there's nothing illegal about doing it and there's no rules the SPFL have told us about that are against it, so we can do it. The moral side of it from a players' point of view is that we want to protect them as far as possible."