COVID 19: Politicians plead for funding for football clubs


Clockwise: Gil Paterson, Martin Docherty Hughes, Jackie Baillie, John Steele, Minister Joe Fitzpatrick and Inverness MSP David Stewart, who started the ball rolling.

By Bill Heaney

SNP parliamentarians Gil Paterson and Martin Docherty Hughes have met with representatives of Clydebank Football Club to discus the plight of the West of Scotland league clubs “which are facing ruin because of the coronavirus restrictions”.
They had two questions for Scottish Sports Minister Joe Fitzpatrick, one relating to a request to set up a hardship fund for such clubs, which do not qualify for any other financial support.
And two, would Mr Fitzpatrick consider setting up a pilot scheme to explore allowing a limited number of spectators to attend matches under Covid-19 guidelines, which would allow them to do so safely?
Mr Paterson said: “If such an approach were to be successful, perhaps it could be rolled out across that league.”

The Minister assured them: “We have been working closely with the football authorities from the outset of the pandemic to ensure that all clubs at all levels have access to the support and advice that they need at this difficult time.

“A range of general financial assistance has already been made available by the Scottish and UK governments, and many football clubs have accessed that funding.

“We are aware that this is an extremely challenging time for football clubs in Scotland, particularly given their relative reliance on gate receipts compared with clubs elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

“Recognising that I am seeking urgent clarity from the UK Government on the financial package that is being developed to support sporting organisations that are most affected by a delay of the return of spectators to stadia and consequential funding for Scotland as a result.”

MSP David Stewart, who supports Inverness, said: “Our professional football clubs are facing a perfect storm: the loss of fans, the loss of match-day revenue and the rising compliance costs of Covid-19.

“Will the minister look at setting up a football support fund as a matter of urgency? Clubs are not just businesses; they are the beating heart of their local communities.

“My plea to the minister is to support our local clubs or face a new year with the demise of much-loved community champions across Scotland.”

Joe Fitzpatrick told him: “I recognise the member’s particular interest in football in his region. As I said, we are working with the UK Government to develop support. I had what I consider to be a positive meeting with the UK minister for sport on the issue, particularly in relation to sport that relies largely on spectators.

“However, thus far, we have not received the hoped-for clarity to be able to develop support for teams in Scotland.”

Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie has been working hard with Dumbarton FC chair John Steele to secure funding for the struggling local team.

The Minister said: “We absolutely want to get supporters back as soon as possible, and the member will be aware that, last week, the First Minister announced that limited numbers of supporters would be allowed in areas with level 0 or level 1 restrictions.

“Obviously, that is an important point in relation to the member’s interests in his region. Officials are working with the football authorities on the detailed arrangements for that, with a view to supporters being back at some fixtures very soon.

Officials are working with the football authorities. We are of the view that all levels of football must be supported by any scheme that is developed, once we have clarity on funding.

“I have written again today to the UK Government, stressing that it is particularly important to Scottish football that we develop a scheme. I am acutely aware also of the importance of the amateur game as part of Scotland’s football offer.”

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