After the phony war, the first shots were fired on restructuring Scottish football post-Covid with the news that the SPFL have considered curtailing not starting Leagues One and Two until January. With one or two under-performing exceptions (Falkirk, Partick), clubs in the bottom two leagues are community clubs in the truest sense.
They exist to serve their local towns, provide physical and intellectual resources local youth clubs can use and aspire towards, allow a large the local employer put their brand on a hoarding and give grandparents somewhere to take the new generation without having to travel. They do not harbour ambitions of promotion to the Premiership, reaching that height would only skew cash flow and risk the entire venture.
These clubs are probably the most secure in British football right now. They don’t care if their players go out of contract, the vast majority of them will in June anyway. Wages are mostly below furlough levels, so they have been able to cut costs down to basic insurance and maintenance.
They could survive for a decade like this, if SPFL payments continue to trickle down, as I assume they will, they could even come out of the crisis cash positive. Opening for business behind closed doors, without pay-at-the-gate customers, reintroduces the bulk of their costs without corresponding income. It is not tenable.
The old Steinage, ‘Football is nothing without fans’ is being tested right now. Having stood at the side of fields in Wishaw, Cumbernauld, Brechin and Milton, I know it is not true; football matters to someone, whenever and wherever it is played. The more interesting questions, is can we have football clubs without fans or games?
It happened during the great 20th Century crisis. Not all survived the war, some may perish this time. The SPFL needed to overcome their recent divisions to move onto this conversation. Furlough will end before it is safe for fans to return to the game, the bottom two leagues should be parked until at least January.