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Can We Have A Government Help Out Scheme For Lower League Football?

Date: 25th September 2020

The latest Covid-19 regulations and guidelines have come with a stark reality-check that this virus hasn’t left us and that the winter months are going to be extremely tough. 

That is very much the case in Scottish football and especially for the smaller lower league sides. 

These clubs have battled bravely through lockdown and are hoping to kick off their season next month. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that they will be able to do that with supporters in their ground. 

I have often said in this column that my belief is that bringing fans back into stadiums should start at the lower levels of the Scottish game. These are the clubs that need the income the most and a lot of grounds in Scotland’s non-league structure are very open and have limited seating. You can bring in reduced numbers and mark out zones in which fans can stand at and watch football in a socially distant way. 

Football clubs at all levels in Scotland are vital to their local communities. They provide fine facilities that the whole town can use, they get people of all ages into exercise and they provide charity to those vulnerable within their society. Football clubs can be a hub that keeps a town, village or area moving and improving. 

I think our associations and our governments need to understand this and come up with a strategy that keeps our most at risk football clubs from going to the wall! 

The ‘Eat Out to Help’ out scheme was a sensational idea that really kick started the hospitality industry’s economy in August. I’d love for the UK and Scottish government to come together and offer something similar to help out Scottish football. 

I would love that to include limited crowds being allowed into lower level stadiums. We could have tickets at say £5 or £7 say and the government then put up the same for two or three months. So clubs would be getting double the price for tickets. We could even do it virtually where fans pay that fee for a stream and the government add in the same value. 

The government could limit it to say 1000 tickets per team that they will double up on. 

Like the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, the taxpayer won’t pay a full amount as the fans will still have to do their part and the clubs will then get more income to help save them from financial ruin. 

I would also like the football governing bodies and the top flight doing more to help out their local teams that might struggle the longer we have no fans in. 

I like that Ross County are helping other sides by providing or paying for testing kits for Brora Rangers and Elgin City. It would be great if more clubs could do that. 

Both Aberdeen and Celtic were fined for Covid breaches and that money has gone to the SPFL Trust. I’d like the SPFL to have a fighting fund to help cover smaller clubs for the remainder of this season, just in case things get any worse. 

Clubs again have to be more and more innovative when it comes to getting money into their own coffers. 

They could go old school and offer up days for beat the goalie competitions on the parks that fans adore against top level keepers or club legends. Again you can do that on non match days and keep it within all the guidelines.

You could provide a member board in dressing rooms where people sign up to become elite club members to get their names on the board. Provide supporters with the chance of having the stadium to themselves for an hour where the can walk around and take pictures. Sell unique opportunities like asking managers/players questions at virtual press conferences, take over the clubs Social Media account on a match day or pay for access to the changing room at half time via a stream. 

Everyone in Scottish football needs to start thinking outside of the box and do more to help each other out. Our governments need to back us too. If we can all come together then hopefully in time we can bring fans back and keep every club alive! 

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