Date: 4th July 2020
Who are we?
The Scottish Football Supporters Association (SFSA) is the national football supporter’s umbrella group representing fans of all Scottish clubs. It is the only independent fans’ body with representation at Football Supporters Europe (see www.fanseurope.org).
SFSA has 73,000 members across three categories: individual fans, fan groups and affiliates. It is well placed to support and deliver innovative programmes that can use the power of football to enhance the community.
The organisation is a volunteer-run, not for profit social enterprise and is a Community Interest Company registered in Scotland. See www.scottishfsa.org.
SFSA has knowledge and experience of the structure and organisation of fans’ groups across the UK and in Europe. We have consulted widely with many football clubs, supporters groups, the Scottish Government as well as across the political parties in Scotland on behalf of fans. We have working relationships with both the SFA and the SPFL where SFSA seeks to be a ‘critical friend’. The organisation believes that the success of football as our national game rests with the participation and the contribution of supporters, and that there is a need for them to have an independent collective influence within the game.
Background to the study
Football at all levels in Scotland has been suspended since the 13thof March 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This ceasing of any matchday revenue has cut clubs revenue by approximately 50% on average.
For some clubs, there is now light at the end of the tunnel, as plans are firmed up for the return of the Premiership and Championship and League 1 and 2 clubs begin consulting with the SPFL over their return.
However, the return of football throws up some big questions:
At the SFSA, we believe that for Scottish football to flourish, all stakeholders must be consulted in decision making. None more so than the supporters. We aim to be the mechanism that enables positive and constructive dialog between supporters and clubs/governing bodies.
The findings detailed in this report were collected from our Covid-19 survey which was open for all supporters to participate in, regardless of SFSA membership. 9 SPFL clubs were helpful in sharing the survey to supporters (Ross County, Hamilton, Dunfermline, Greenock Morton, Arbroath, Dumbarton, Stirling Albion, Cowdenbeath and Stenhousemuir). The sample size is 1,465.
Breakdown of sample by supporter type
Will supporters buy season tickets before it’s clear what exactly the product is?
Certain clubs have already began selling season tickets in order to ease cash flow struggles in these tough times, whereas others have taken the stance that they cannot begin their campaigns until its clear what it is they are selling.
Leagues 1 and 2 are at the time of writing yet to confirm a start date and although the Premiership and Championships have fixed restart dates, it’s unclear how many games season ticket holders will be able to attend in person.
Our findings suggest that a majority (61.68%) of supporters are willing to purchase regardless of uncertainty. However, a significant proportion (38.32%), would require more clarity before they part with their cash.
Once stadia reopens at full capacity to supporters, will they still attend?
It is important to note that when football does fully return, there will be a “new normal” with everything not quite as it was prior to the suspension of football. This section of the survey attempts to create a better picture of what this “new normal” will be like in relation to things before the suspension.
Overall, approximately a third of supporters surveyed said they will attend less games than they did previously, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with 18.11% either ceasing to attend or severely reducing their attendance. This will undoubtedly damage club’s matchday revenues massively.
Concerns over Covid-19 related health risks was found to be the most significant factor in the above, with around a third citing it as a factor in reducing their attendance somewhat.
Loss of income and concerns in using public transport are less significant than health concerns at stadia, however remain influential.
Will supporters pay to watch live streams of behind closed door matches?
We now know that Premiership and Championship club season tickets holders will be able to view their club’s home matches live via their club’s own tv channels. At the time of writing, this also remains a possibility for league 1 and 2 clubs. The above question aims to establish whether or not supporters are willing to pay for this.
Although 78.1% of supporters would pay to watch matches on club tv channels, only a third said they would pay “close to the price of a season ticket”, which we now know they will have to.
Do supporters have an appetite for attending reduced capacity matches?
It is club’s ambition to open stadia with reduced capacity and social distancing enforced, as soon as it is safe to do so. But do supporters actually want to attend matches in this manner.
Our survey suggests that overwhelmingly (87.37%),supporters will indeed seek to attend matches even if they are reduced capacity to enforce social distancing.
Report by SFSA project manager, Paddy Hainey.
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