Keep playing and carry on

Date: 25th January 2021

The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald stewart:

Keep Playing and what a Carry On…

You have to have sympathy for lower leagues supporters. Their season has come to a staggering halt and the likelihood of there being any more games for them tune into, shout at their screens during buffering or try to be optimistic over for the long or even medium term future of their club is a challenge.

John Steele, chairman of Dumbarton is calling it the biggest challenge since World War Two and I am not going to disagree with him there. What was most surprising about the announcement was that it was a surprise. First of all, any suspension of activity during a global pandemic should not come as any form of surprise but the fact that a membership organisation springs something upon its members gives lie, once again, to the suggestion that either the SFA or the  SPFL are some kind of bowling club.

Dumbarton is 150 years old next year and any plans there may have been to celebrate that has had to be continued whilst wondering if the milestone shall ever be celebrated with a club to celebrate it.

Supporters of other clubs, including my own, Ayr United have been digging deep with a £10,000 cheque for the Somerset Park side having been delivered by their AU500 Fund in January to help to cover the costs of keeping the club alive.

The support that has been forthcoming from the centre, these Millions to be distributed to lower league and Premiership clubs is vital and though some, Morton being the most obvious are in dire need of it, what happens if they cannot play games, are unable to train and the revenue from elsewhere – tickets, season or otherwise, advertising etc – dry up as there is no product upon which to spend it?

It is worrying times indeed and whilst we are about to embark upon a summer of watching the pinnacle of our labours – the Scottish National Team – grace the international stage once again in a major tournament we have to ask – to whether shall they look if we are going to see clubs and the game go to the wall for the future prospects?

I am not calling for all of the pandemic measures to be shelved. I am certainly not suggesting that football deserves to have special treatment – nipping off to Spain and Dubai in a Celtic top has put paid to that notion – but we should have a plan. We should have a collegiate plan, we should have an idea of how those within the game are going to manage the game out of this.

Instead, we have zoom calls denying the membership a chance to ask the relevant questions.

It looks bad because it is bad.

Both the SFA and the SPFL are good at paper and making a lot of it come out of printers. Whether it be reports, check lists and everything that is needed to avoid a variance, they can give you it in reams. We don’t need another committee, another report, another spat about how one club is doing in welcoming another club to their ground. We need confidence, to feel that the game where 50% of the revenue comes in from the supporters has a place in a future Scottish society. And yes, that means with as many of the clubs in existence as is possible. If the community around clubs can rally to keep them afloat, then nobody should question their right to be at the table. Nobody.

But as I look out upon the landscape, I see less confidence and more fear. For the likes of Dumbarton with 150 years to celebrate, it may be muted, it may end up being different but it should not be a wake.

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