SFL clubs struggling as big freeze hits crucial cashflow

Given that the financial impact of weather disruption has become a talking point within Scottish Premier League boardrooms for a week now, clubs further down the aborted fixture card are forgiven anxiety.

If there seems something slightly dubious about Scottish Football League clubs pursuing compensation claims after the referees' strike wiped out games at the end of November - bad weather would have prompted postponements in any case - then a series of blank weekends are a more serious matter.

The scheduled SFL game of the day at the weekend was in Falkirk, with Raith Rovers supposed to be the visitors. A crowd in excess of 5,000 had been anticipated; that figure is unlikely to be matched if the teams play on the rearranged date of 14 December. Hospitality packages purchased with Saturday in mind will suffer an inevitable drop-off for a Tuesday night; all in all, it is a costly process for the home club.

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"It's a funny one because normally we would have moved heaven and earth to make sure the game went ahead," said Falkirk's managing director George Craig.

"We had everything in place - gritters, snow ploughs and the like but we had to take a view. Even if we managed to get the game on, what would have been the possibility of people being prepared to travel?

"People have struggled to get the schools and their work all week, were they then likely to come out for the football on a Saturday? With that in mind, it was probably one of the easiest decisions we have had to make. And that's not even taking into account the pitch, which is sitting with ten inches of snow on it just now."

The balance sheet, though, will feel the impact of Falkirk's current situation. "We are not due to have a home Saturday game until 18 December," Craig added. "That will mean a six-week gap between them. When you are in the SFL, gate receipts basically are your income."

Craig is an advocate of looking towards a winter break or a complete overhaul of the fixture schedule, a matter which is only endorsed by current events.

"It's not just to do with snow," he said. "When you have a wet and windy afternoon, people simply choose not to go to games. If your crowd drops 200 or 300 because of the weather, that's a big hit."

The SFL have attempted to emphasise their duty of care towards clubs by handing out a 10,000 payment to them all. However, that interim reward is money which will therefore be knocked off what is paid at the end of the season.

Dundee are obviously the club whose need is currently greatest in the SFL. The First Division side are in a race against time as they seek to raise enough money merely to see out the remainder of the season. Dundee's support has reacted admirably to their second plunge into administration, meaning the cancellation of Saturday's visit of Cowdenbeath was a significant financial blow - as is the postponement of tonight's fund-raising friendly with neighbours Dundee United.Players, of course, are likely to take a generally contrasting view to those holding the purse strings at their clubs. Those who took the field at Recreation Park as Alloa hosted Peterhead - the sole game in Scottish senior football - may privately have felt they had been dealt a poor hand.

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But Alloa are to be commended for putting plans in place to help the visiting supporters with their travel arrangements where possible. There was, of course, a cash incentive for Alloa to make sure this game went ahead but such a scenario justifies investment in an artificial pitch.

Investment is badly needed at clubs such as Clyde. Sitting at the bottom of the Third Division, largely on account of a drastic cost-cutting policy, postponements represent what their director David Dishon admits is a "nightmare scenario".

Dishon added: "We would have had a struggle if not for that advance from the SFL. We have a difficult few months between now and the end of the season and it was the same a year ago; we have eight postponements so basically ended up playing every Saturday and Tuesday between March and May."

Clyde have basic monthly outgoings of between 10,000 and 20,000 and therefore rely on ticket income.

"Last week with the postponement of our game against Queen's Park we probably missed out on our biggest home gate of the season, that would cost us about 3,000," Dishon said.

"The games get moved to a Tuesday night, nobody is interested in corporate hospitality in midweek and a general lethargy sets in among fans. I don't blame them for that.

"We have doubled our season ticket numbers this season so the walk-up impact (of postponements] isn't too bad, but for other clubs in the Third Division it will be much worse. Third Division teams are generally out of the cups and, without some mega sponsorship deal, where is the money coming from?"