FOOTBALL finance expert Bryan Jackson fears a prolonged period of inactivity could plunge to a swathe of clubs into a fight for survival.
Jackson has become a familiar face during times of crisis in Scottish football, having previously spearheaded the administration efforts at Motherwell, Clyde, Dundee, Dunfermline and Hearts following their respective collapses.
He has first-hand experience of how vital gate receipts, commercial sales and the ‘resilience’ of generous supporters are to the survival of clubs – all of which could be hard to come by for the foreseeable future.
Jackson, who believes most SPFL sides are far more responsible than the late 1990s and early 2000s, would be confident that they could survive a few weeks without fixtures being played in front of paying fans.
Should that extend to months, however, he has his doubts – and reckons the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus is worse than any errant owner.
“In many ways, it would be easier to deal with the mismanagement of a club than this,” admitted Jackson, now a consultant with financial giants Johnston Carmichael.
“At least you know the challenges and issues you are facing. The worst aspect of this for clubs is the complete uncertainty.
“If it is going to be a matter of weeks without a match then clubs could conceivably plan for that and, although there would be immediate challenges, eventually get that income.
“The issue is: nobody knows if it will only be weeks.
“If this stretches to, for example, three or four months, then who knows? You start to ask serious questions about the ability of clubs to survive, particularly those who don’t operate with major cash reserves.
“Gate receipts are a massive factor. I know some clubs have good season ticket sales to fall back on, but a lot still count on that walk-up business.
“There is also the commercial element of a match-day in terms of merchandise sales, hospitality, sponsorship. Being without all of this is damaging.”
Jackson believes that, in times of crisis, Scottish football’s greatest attribute is the passion of the supporters.
That was illustrated admirably by the growth of the Foundation of Hearts, the 8000-strong supporters group which helped to save the Jambos following the ruinous rein of Vladimir Romanov.
Pars United were similarly vital to Dunfermline and continue to plough money into the club to this day.
However, Jackson fears that punters may not be on hand to bail out their local clubs amid a global health crisis that could affect all walks of life.
“The resilience of the Scottish football fan never ceases to amaze me,” adds Jackson. “And I’ve no doubt supporters will want to back their club if there is any sign of trouble.
“However, this is a worldwide issue that is impacting on everyone and many fans could be feeling the strain in their own jobs.
“If it comes down to paying rent and buying dinner, or putting money into your club, there will only be one winner.”
He adds: “If any clubs do collapse then I have no doubt, in the fulness of time, they would come back in some form, but that’s the last thing anyone wants.”
Indeed, in the face of an unprecedented scenario, Jackson has called on the Scottish Government to ensure football clubs, as vital community institutions, are given all the support possible, albeit in testing times for all businesses.
“I would like to think there will be an appreciation that football clubs are a vital part of their communities – I have seen that first-hand – and hopefully there is scope for government support,” continued Jackson.
“This is not a case of mismanagement or errant ownership. This is something that nobody could have foreseen and it is through no fault of the clubs.
“I would like to think the Scottish FA and SPFL will be liaising with the government about the situation to try to mitigate the damage.”