Dave Cormack’s sense of doom is just the tip of the iceberg for Scottish football

Aberdeen chairman insists no club in Scotland will escape effects of pandemic
Dave Cormack planned for Aberdeen to ‘punch above our weight’ when he took over in December, but circumstances have changed. Picture: Craig Foy/SNSDave Cormack planned for Aberdeen to ‘punch above our weight’ when he took over in December, but circumstances have changed. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
Dave Cormack planned for Aberdeen to ‘punch above our weight’ when he took over in December, but circumstances have changed. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

The worrying statement released by Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack yesterday could have been issued by any one of the 42 senior teams in the country. Only the name of the club and the financial figures involved would need adapting.

The hope is the same number are still around to release any kind of statement at all when we come out the other end of this emergency situation.

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Aberdeen, who are lying fourth in the Premiership, are currently braced for a £5 million black hole in their finances due to the coronavirus-inflicted shutdown.

For another club operating near the bottom of League Two, it might be £100,000. But it still amounts to the same thing for the side in question – potential catastrophe.

Not since the war years has Scottish football been plunged into a crisis with scope to touch all corners of the game.

It’s been them and us in Scottish football for a long while. Now there’s an ill wind blowing that’s capable of bringing down any club in its path, whether they are big or small, previously financially stable or otherwise. Not even the Old Firm are immune.

Cormack made this point himself. “I don’t believe there is any club in Scotland – and I mean any club in Scotland – that can survive six-to-nine months of this,” he said in an interview with BBC Scotland. “And I don’t wish to be scaremongering, but we are budgeting for this to be fully three-to-six months.”

Hearts last week became the first Scottish club to take drastic action when owner Ann Budge announced she had asked all players and staff to take a 50 per cent wage cut from next month to help keep the club afloat. Those who did feel able to agree to this were offered the option of having their contract cancelled.

Cormack is trying hard to avoid a similar course of action as he battles to ensure Aberdeen’s future. The Pittodrie board have been debating a number of options. The club are fortunate to have alternative sources of funding – now it’s just a matter of persuasion. It’s where someone like former manager Craig Brown, still performing an ambassadorial role at the club, could prove priceless. Cormack knows he himself will have to cough up more money.

Among the options, he said, is “asking investors, including myself, to support the [survival] plan. “We will be facing some tough decisions and we will need everyone to come together and play their part in efforts to make sure the club get through this period.”

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Atlanta-based Cormack only took over at the Pittodrie in December after Stewart Milne stepped down as chairman after 22 years at the helm. Talk about picking the wrong time to take over a football club – or talk about picking the right time in the case of Milne.

Late last year, when the announcement was made, it looked to be a significant statement of intent from Aberdeen. AMB Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of Major League Soccer side Atlanta United, also invested £2m in the Pittodrie club at the same time. It was part of £5m fresh investment hailed by Cormack as allowing Aberdeen to “punch above our weight”.

He envisioned trying to level the playing field with Rangers and Celtic.

Of course, no one could have foreseen a global pandemic
disrupting all these plans just months later. Cormack has already proved himself to be his own man. He clearly wants to give it a go. He caused some controversy with a plan to improve the atmosphere at Pittodrie that involved shutting the top tier of the stadium’s biggest stand. This was part of a scheme to increase season ticket sales by 1,000.

Such well-intentioned attempts to make a difference, however marginal, now seem so meaningless. As Cormack has underlined, it’s become less about mounting a challenge at the top, and more a case of ensuring Aberdeen are able to survive. But then they’re not alone there. The penny is slowly dropping.



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