SFA’s Ian Maxwell says Premiership football likely to return in August

Chief executive insists top-flight resumption is ‘definitely achievable’ and that plans are being put in place

Ian Maxwell says the SFA has a plan to ‘keep players, staff and everybody involved in the game safe’. Photograph: Craig Foy/SNS

Ian Maxwell, the Scottish Football Association chief executive, believes the game is likely to return in August.

Some previous predictions from within the Scottish football authorities had signalled September or October as a realistic return date following the coronavirus suspension but Maxwell is more optimistic ahead of a meeting with the Scottish Government on Friday.

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A route out of lockdown was published on Thursday which outlined phase two as the beginning of professional sport’s return, with phase one set to begin on 28 May.

“I think it is likely that we will see football in August,” Maxwell told BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound. “We are seeing it in countries across Europe.

“I think it is definitely achievable, the plans we are putting in place are comprehensive. We have to make sure we are giving Government comfort that we can do it in a manner that keeps the players, the staff, everybody involved in the game safe, and I’m sure we can do that.

“The information we had from Government was that the NHS was on an emergency footing until 10 June and there would be no relaxation of restrictions until that point.

“Obviously they have released their staged plans, phase two talks about a return to professional sport and that ties in with some time round about 10-18 June.

“Obviously that is fluid but I think we have to go on the hope and expectation that the numbers we are seeing in terms of the virus will continue to decrease and that gives us the opportunity to plan for then.

“As long as all those elements fall into place, there is no reason why we can’t be training then and back playing six weeks after that.”

The Scottish Premiership is set to be the first division to kick off and there is no guarantee the others will follow.

Forfar admitted on Friday that it would be very difficult for Leagues One and Two to resume this year, while Championship side Queen of the South described playing games without fans as “financial suicide”.

The costs of coronavirus testing have also been deemed prohibitive with some estimates putting the weekly cost to clubs at up to £4,500.

But former Partick Thistle chief executive Maxwell said: “I don’t think it would be that. I think we can be creative with that. All things being equal it could be less than half that.

“If I put my Thistle head back on, as soon as someone says a thousand pounds, I think ‘that’s a good player I can’t sign’. Football finances translate into a number of players and that’s something clubs are going to have to deal with if they want to get training back and get games back.

“We need to be able to step in and support them as much as we can.”

Maxwell revealed the SFA held talks with a supplier of testing machines on Friday along with representatives from other sports.

“There are different ways to do testing,” he said. “Down south, I understand the model is they take swabs which are given to one lab to test them all, and the clubs get the results back the next day.

“There is machinery available where you can test players at the training pitch and you can have results back within an hour.

“Testing is going to be important, I don’t see any circumstances whereby the Government or more importantly the players sign off on a training regime that didn’t include significant and proper level of testing.

“I think it’s right that the Scottish FA play a part in making that as affordable as we can for clubs.”

Second-tier clubs are set to meet tomorrow while Hearts owner Ann Budge, pictured, is still formulating a reconstruction plan.

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