STARING INTO THE ABYSSDate: Tuesday, 1st Dec 2020
Scottish Football is staring into the abyss. We have got to get fans back into the grounds.
Club Chairmen are not arguing for packed stadia but appropriate socially distanced gates with all relevant hygiene measures and stewarding in place.
While a rescue package from the UK Government is long overdue, one has to query why, five months after worldwide research by WHO found that this virus does not transmit outdoors; (hence the return of golf, tennis, fishing, sailing, kayaking, putting, bowls, outdoor swimming etc) we are still having this debate.
WHO found that it was incredibly rare for Covid to be transmitted outdoors. Not only is it easier to socially distance in the fresh air but the virus has to navigate wind, heat, rain, sleet, snow and humidity to leap between people. The Epidemiology Of Infectious Diseases Departments of Nottingham and Oxford Universities and Imperial College all agree that you are far less likely to touch an infected surface outside.Suspended viral particles are diluted by fresh air and droplets fall to the ground. UV from sunlight destroys virus particles.
What exactly did 300 socially distanced fans at 22000 capacity Pittodrie, 700 at 64,000 capacity Murrayfield tell anyone or, indeed, the tiny crowds in Level 1 venues?
Surely 5000 fans at 12,000 capacity East End Park in winter gloves,scarves and beanies can safely be seated with entry/dispersal staggered and no Hospitality on offer? There was no spike when half a million turned up at mobbed Bournemouth beach in June.
The Scottish Government is correct in insisting that, for the foreseeable future, away fans must not travel across Scotland, but most clubs are gaining from streaming matches at £12 per game. Indeed, a few in Leagues 1 and 2 have attracted more viewers than last season`s comparable attendances !
Streaming must continue once the crisis eases. Fans unwilling to travel long distances to a match will gladly fork out to view their team away.
Clubs outwith the Premiership are most vulnerable to a massive hit financially in a country where 43% of their income is a Saturday match day attendance and UEFA States we have the most inequitable income distribution in Europe. These clubs are weaker now because, during Lockdown, the Pars were not playing, the Club cut right back and closed down with staff furloughed.
That can`t happen now. Yes the U.K. Government looks after its own with the £300m Sports Winter package to help English spectator games (Football £28m) coming on top of the £16m rescue package for English Rugby League.
£5m in Scotland would be transformational as Dunfermline Chairman Ross McArthur has said. With a proportion of the above aid coming to Scotland; Joe Fitzpatrick, Sports Minister, must give us some clarity.
If he were to emulate England and allow up to 4000 to attend,eg in Scottish Levels 1 and 2; he might, in a football mad country, inadvertently, incentivise that minority whose compliance in Levels 3 and 4 is a concern.