Lower league SPFL clubs warn of ‘disaster’ and grave financial hardship should games be played behind closed doors or postponed

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Chairmen and directors of SPFL lower league sides have warned that their clubs are facing disaster and severe financial hardship should games be played behind closed doors.

The worsening coronavirus crisis prompted Scotland’s First Minster Nicola Sturgeon recommending the cancellation of mass gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday.

The joint SFA and SPFL response group now plan to enter discussions with the Scottish Government to ‘understand the full detail of their plans and the implications for clubs and national sides’.

The league body has already said that there is no money to bail out its members should the rest of the season be played in empty stadia.

Raith Rovers chairman Bill Clark, whose side lead League One by over point over Falkirk, Stranraer chairman Iain Dougan and Cowdenbeath finance director David Allan have all had their say.

Raith Rovers chairman Bill Clark: 

For us the biggest problem is going to be the financial hit that we’re going to take. If we moved to closed doors that is a disaster for us.

We would take a huge financial hit if we were having to play behind closed doors, and even worse if they decide to guillotine the leagues.

We have no cash reserves, the thing we hope first of all is that the SPFL might advance payments which we would normally get at the end of the season. 

If they brought even part of that forward then I think it would help all of the clubs in leagues One and Two. 

The other thing we are hoping is that HMRC might allow us to delay paying VAT and things like that.

These are massive bills we have to pay quarterly and we could be in a bit of trouble. 

If games are postponement and they’re played later then fair enough but given where we are at the top of the league just now, and with fierce competition at the top of the League One, my worry is that if they decide to bring down the guillotine on the leagues, what are going to do with League One?

The others leagues are all pretty straightforward because you have clear leaders.

As far as naming winners is concerned, we’re top today but we just have to lose one game and we could find we lose the league even though we’ve been top for something like 21 weeks out of 28.

Stranraer chairman Iain Dougan:

Income is bad enough, we’ve had a few postponements recently because of the weather and Tuesday night games are terrible for us and all clubs at the lower level because you have no hospitality because people are working the next day. 

We find that at the end of the season our hospitality tends to be full.

We had a crowd of 180 against Montrose on Tuesday and it was our first home game in six weeks.

We played Rangers (at Ibrox in January) in the Scottish Cup, which is a great windfall but when you’ve not had a game for six weeks and you have your wage bill and the upkeep of the club, you’re not long in going through that windfall.

If it hadn’t have been for the cup game we would have been in serious trouble, even due to the amount of cancellations we’ve had.

There was money that had been earmarked to fit new seats in the stand, that kind of stuff but you’re digging into it now with the cancellations and this would just exaggerate it. 

There will be other clubs that won’t be in the position we are in with regards to that windfall. 

Under normal circumstances it would be disastrous.

Cowdenbeath finance director David Allan: 

We are concerned about it and we’re waiting to see how it goes. It could be very difficult for clubs like ourselves. 

We’ve got four home games left, including one on Saturday and potentially playoffs. 

The money side of things really impacts you. We’re totally sold out in hospitality for our remaining four home games and if we lose that’s a big chunk for us. That would be the real big impact for us.

If you went closed doors, that could really be quite damaging, as well as the gate money of course.

Cash flow is already difficult for clubs such as ours, especially at this point of the season. The last few months are always the worst time and then you get into the new season with season ticket sales and league money comes in, new sponsorships.

We’d have to work out how we fund it, sometimes it depends on whether our directors want to keep dipping into their pockets. Or do the fans want to contribute? 

At the moment we’re working on a cash flow according to the existing budget so if you make it worse that there is implications how you fund that.

 
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