Closed doors could force Scottish football to seek government bailout

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Scottish clubs could be forced to seek a government bailout if fans cannot attend matches. - AFP file

Neil Doncaster said that the high reliance on gate receipts made it more vulnerable to a prolonged period of playing behind closed doors

Scottish football could be forced to seek a government bailout if supporters are unable to attend matches for the forseeable future, the chief executive of the Scottish Professional Football League warned on Tuesday.

Neil Doncaster said that the high reliance of the Scottish game on gate receipts compared to other top leagues around Europe made it more vulnerable to a prolonged period of playing behind closed doors.

According to UEFA's latest Club Licensing Benchmark report, gate receipts provided 43 percent of revenue for the 12 clubs in the Scottish Premiership, by far the highest in Europe's top 20 leagues.

"We gave the Minister a frank summary of the existential crisis our game is facing," Doncaster said in a statement after a meeting with Joe FitzPatrick, Scottish Minister for Public Health, and leaders of other sports organisations.

"Gate receipts make up a far higher proportion of our income than in England, which benefits from huge TV deals, so until we get back to playing in front of crowds, our game will remain in grave peril."

Rugby League clubs in England were granted a £16 million ($20 million) emergency loan last week to help with the financial consequences of coronavirus.

And Doncaster suggested a similar bailout might be needed for clubs from the Scottish government in the coming months.

"We'll continue to be guided by the Scottish Government's health experts on when we are able to resume matches, but that looks to be some while away," he said.

"We have already seen the UK Government pledging £16m support to Rugby League in England to prevent it from being devastated by COVID-19.

"The longer we are unable to play matches in Scotland, the more essential will be significant financial support for our hard-pressed national sport."

Football has been suspended at all levels in Scotland until June 10.

Leagues below the Premiership have been declared over for the 2019-20 season and it appears increasingly certain that the top-flight will follow suit.

Talks are ongoing over league reconstruction for the 2020-21 campaign that would prevent any club from being relegated due to the early end to the season.

According to reports, a proposal will be put forward later this week for the Premiership and Championship to expand to 14 teams and for Leagues One and Two to be merged into one 16-team division.

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