Sign in to follow this  
  • entries
    78
  • comment
    1
  • views
    2,404

How coronavirus could affect Scottish football

Sign in to follow this  
hislopsoffsideagain

314 views

In case you haven't noticed, Covid-19 (let's be a bit pedantic and call it that, since there are plenty of other coronaviruses of varying severity, including causes of the common cold) is coming. At the time of writing there are 27 cases in Scotland, but that number is going to increase impressively.

For what it's worth it seems to me (from my day job perspective as a GP) that the powers that be are dealing with things pretty appropriately at the moment. I'm not an expert in virology or epidemiology (or anything, really) but the advice they're giving right now makes sense to me. And the fact that said advice will change in the next little while as the number of infected people increases also makes sense.

It does now seems inevitable that some time soon the government will ban large public gatherings. Like, say, football crowds. After all, it's already happening in Ligue 1, La Liga and Primeira Liga. In Italy, where infection rates are higher than anywhere else in Europe, they've gone a step further; all Serie A matches have been postponed till the start of April.

It's not just the crowds that are the issue. The Premier League has postponed tonight's Manchester City v Arsenal game because Arsenal players have been exposed to someone with Covid-19 and are self-isolating. This will surely become a common issue and matches will have to be called off either one by one or probably en masse.

And if that's what the experts say should happen here, then so be it. Saving lives is rather more important than twenty-two men chasing a ball.

If/when that happens, there will be significant knock-on effects for Scottish football.

More than anywhere else in Europe, Scottish clubs are dependent on matchday income. Postponing matches means that they won't see that cash till further down the road. Playing them behind closed doors means no cash at all.

Football finance expert Kieran Maguire gave this take on how it will play out for English League One and League Two clubs, which is pretty comparable. By this time of year season ticket proceeds have been spent and clubs are dependent on what they can get from walk-up fans and away supporters, as well as food, programme sales etc. Not many have a rainy day fund to get through this sort of situation.

It's also possible that clubs will be obliged to refund season ticket holders for games they aren't allowed to attend. One would like to think that most supporters would take that on the chin, but you never know. Having to compensate them in any way would be extremely onerous.

It's certainly possible that a number of clubs who are already living hand-to-mouth - I'm mainly thinking of full-time teams in the Championship and League One - will be in a right fix. Will someone go bust? I hope not. But it must be a possibility.

The SPFL and SFA have already noted this. As it stands, their intent is to "endeavour to complete the season and fulfil their obligations under their broadcasting agreements". They said that a week ago. It seems wildly optimistic now.

If matches are to be postponed, when will they be played? Will they be played at all? What on earth will the SPFL do with the rest of the season? Here are the options that seem to be available. None of them are especially palatable...


SQUEEZE IN ALL THE POSTPONED GAMES BY THE END OF THE SEASON
Any matches that are called off are fitted in to the remaining available midweek dates. Everything finishes on time and it's all good.

The problems with this plan: the last day of the domestic season - the Championship playoff final - is 24 May, with the lower leagues finishing their 'regular season' on 2 May and the Premiership finishing on 17 May. If there is a significant fixture backlog, there aren't many dates available for catchup. And if call-offs start happening before the Premiership split, then that could cause a real headache for schedulers.

Chances of it happening: this is of course the ideal solution for everyone, but it seems increasinly unlikely circumstances will allow it.


FINISH THE SEASON EARLY
Bring forward the end of the season, and declare champions, relegation etc depending on positions at this point. Hearts strongly disapprove of this plan.

The problems with this plan: obviously there's an element of unfairness. It's also not clear how you would manage cup finals and playoffs in these circumstances. And clubs would miss out on income from their last few home matches.

Chances of it happening: there would be a significant outcry about 'sporting integrity' which would probably derail this. And the financial knock-on would also be a big problem. It is however the simplest solution, if not necessarily the fairest.


EXTEND THE SEASON INTO THE SUMMER
If matches aren't finished by the end of May, just keep playing into June...and onwards, if necessary.

The problems with this plan: for a start, plenty of clubs have players only contracted till the end of May or even a few weeks before that in the case of lower division teams. Broadcasting and sponsorship agreements also expire around that time. There's also Euro 2020 (if it goes ahead as planned) and the need for players to get an appropriate break before the start of next season which would normally be scheduled for mid-July.

Chances of it happening: this would probably cause as many problems as it would solve. Perhaps an option if other countries were doing it, but it would require major changes in the calendar for next season.


LOTS OF PLAYOFFS
The Italians have mooted deciding the title and relegation via playoff matches. It would certainly make for good TV.

The problems with this plan: Celtic are never going to agree to a playoff for the league, given their current points advantage. And how do you decide what teams should go into the relegation playoffs in any given league?

Chances of it happening: can't see it.


CALL THE SEASON OFF
Declare the 2019/20 season null and void. Don't award the league title to anyone. Don't have promotion or relegation. Start over next season with clubs in the same divisions they are now. Hearts strongly approve of this plan.

The problems with this plan: who wants to volunteer to tell Celtic fans that nine-in-a-row is cancelled? There are also repercussions for clubs such as Dundee United, who would be stuck in the second tier for yet another year having spent significantly to get up to the top flight.

Chances of it happening: unlikely, unless the rest of Europe is doing the same thing.


CANCEL RELEGATION BUT ALLOW PROMOTION
Get around the idea of stopping the season early being unfair on clubs at the bottom of the table by announcing relegation would be scrapped, but allow promotion to take place anyway so no-one is disadvantaged (much). Obviously it would be sensible to promote the team currently second in the Championship since the playoffs wouldn't happen (wink, wink).

The problems with this plan: you'd end up with having to deal with a 14 team top flight for at least a season, which would be a whole new issue.

Chances of it happening: pretty much zero, since only a half-crazed Caley Thistle-supporting blogger would even think of it, let alone support it.



In conclusion, this is going to be a real headache for Scottish football - and for football in general - to deal with. For us, it'll probably be a case of doing what England and other countries do. Normally I would grate at that, but in this case following everyone else's lead is probably the best way forward. That's assuming of course that everyone else agrees on a way to go forward.

And most importantly, if this is the price to pay for helping the country and the world get through this crisis, then so be it. Remember that Bill Shankly quote - "Some people think football is a matter of life and death...I can assure them it is much more serious than that."? Bear in mind that he was joking.


Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.

View the full article

Sign in to follow this  


0 Comments


Recommended Comments

There are no comments to display.

  • Upcoming Events

    No upcoming events found
  • Topics

  • Posts

    • 5th 6th and 7th in our house then...lol 
    • Two things. I agree that O'Connor has been brave in speaking about his issues which may have been the reason for his ill discipline but it doesn't distract from the fact that he was extremely ill disciplined. Secondly; you, like me, have no idea whether or not Stokes also has similar issues. Many people who do, quite understandably, do not wish to go public with them.
    • That's a bit harsh on O'Connor , considering the well publicised demons he has had to deal with since he shot to fame. Fighting addiction and dealing with suicidal thoughts isn't quite what comes to mind when you call someone " least disciplined " . At least he is involved with trying to help others now, something I'm not sure Stokes would bother with if and when the wheels come off his gravy train.
    • Ryan Christie scored in Celtic’s 3-2 win against Livingston whilst Iain Vigurs scored the only goal as County beat St Johnstone. 
    • Good shout that, thanks for the nudge... 01 - 212 -         Gringo   02 - 209 -         Robert 03 - 186 -         Mrs Gringo  04 - 182 -         Caley Mad in Berks 05 - 179 -         old caley girl 06 - 177 -         Ictross 07 - 176 -         caleycalum 08 - 165 -         CDN Girl 09 - 164 -         MrCaleyjag 10 - 160 -         Doofer 10 - 160 -         JodieC95 Everyone else..