Celtic fans don’t generally agree with Kris Boyd but this time around, he might actually have a point regarding the future of Scottish football.
There is a time and a place for everything and Celtic fans may not agree with most of the points he makes. But Kris Boyd is making some good and relevant points about fans being critical to Scottish football surviving.
Boyd has been writing in the Scottish Sun about getting fans back into games. Based on events and announcements over recent days this looks to be a long way off again. If so, that’s going to cause huge problems for some clubs, possibly insurmountable in some instances. Boyd is very clear in his opening thoughts:
“The show must go on.
“Even if more lockdown measures are reintroduced, it would be catastrophic for the game — and for the country — if football was curtailed again.
“This season has to be completed and, preferably, with supporters back in stadiums.”
We all know though that there is a mix of concern, reluctance and also recklessness in how the public view their safety in protecting the spread of the virus. But fans at events is one of the key areas we’ve seen a reverse in the rules and thinking. So is Boyd just a football immersed pundit who isn’t thinking wider beyond the game itself? And could it really be safe in practice?
“The vast majority involved in our national game are following the rules and procedures put in place to make football as safe as possible. Surely Premiership clubs should be able to operate at even ten per cent of crowd capacity — and that would be a worst-case scenario.”
“Take my old club Kilmarnock, for example. They average around 5,500 per game. What would be wrong with half of them being allowed into home games? Rugby Park has an 18,000 capacity so there would be more than enough room for the fans to social distance.”
“It would then be over to the supporters to respect the opportunity afforded them. Tickets would be delivered remotely to phones and the punters would have a certain amount of time to reach their seat. They could even have their half-time pie and drink delivered to wherever they are sitting. Just as restaurants are allowed to do.”
Those seem fair points in terms of how it could perhaps work. Of course there’d have to be thought about fans arriving and leaving and restricted movement during the game. That could perhaps be planned and organised more effectively than say the free for all in cities as pubs and restaurants close at 10 p.m. ejecting large numbers of people on the streets.
Boyd continues to highlight anomalies between football fans at matches and other day to day rules:
“What baffles me is that millions of people every day are allowed into supermarkets, restaurants and pubs but not into football grounds. I’ve never been one to shy away from my food and have been to umpteen shops over the past few months.
“And, let me tell you, there is far more risk of catching coronavirus in your local supermarket than there is at Rugby Park in the middle of winter. Restaurants have also been packed with the “Eat Out To Help Out” campaign. So why are most cafes and bars, albeit at a reduced capacity, allowed to open indoors while football grounds remain on the banned list?”
Financially the impact on Scottish football is huge. Outside of the game and fan following there doesn’t seem to be an appreciation of the significance of match day income to the clubs. UEFA’s Club Licensing Benchmark report quoted that 43% of clubs income in Scotland in 2018 came from ticket revenue. The European average is around 15% with far better and more lucrative TV deals often being the key difference.
Boyd raises his concerns about the finances:
“The top-flight teams are just about getting by at the moment but I really fear for the lower-league clubs. Hearts, following their relegation, could be the biggest casualty and unless we find a way to get money into these football clubs they will disappear.”
He calls for the SFA and Scottish government to take action to help protect the game as one of the country’s big businesses. Will anything happen though? Is football different or worthy of being treated differently or more positively? It’s probably unlikely in the short term. It would send the wrong signals amongst all the other cautionary messages and announcements. But perhaps there is scope to look again at football and other sport sooner and in the not too distant future, rather than another potentially devastating 6 months down the line.
Let’s leave a last and still continuing to be sensible set of thoughts to Kris Boyd making a significant point on the importance of the game:
“I’m not for one minute arguing we ignore coronavirus but there are other issues that need to be addressed too.”
“Football is not a miracle cure for people struggling day-to-day.”
“However, from my own personal experiences through my mental health charity, I do know it helps a lot of people.”
“For so many people at the moment, the game is the only thing providing passion, enjoyment and bringing some semblance of sanity.”
“Don’t take that away from us.”
Fair play Kris, people can take different views on rights and wrongs of what you suggest but you’ve made some good and sensible points to add to the debate.