The Scottish Premiership got back underway this weekend with a full complement of fixtures held behind closed doors for the first time in the league’s history.
The SPFL took the decision to end the season early in May after clubs expressed a unanimous view that there is no prospect of completing the season.
It allowed the league to release around £7 million in fees “to help clubs stay afloat” amidst the continued uncertainty of Covid-19 – echoing similar action taken in leagues 1, 2 and below in England.
Pay per view streams
But the return of the domestic season brought with it the same financial headaches and a new way of resolving them in the shape of club TV.
Teams have been able to sell season tickets to their supporters in the shape of virtual passes to watch games through their own club channel.
Pay-per-view streams will also be sold by clubs allowing non-season ticket holders to watch matches.
The potentially lucrative model has already attracted some big names, with Clive Tyldesley providing commentary for Rangers TV following his spat with ITV.
Neil McCann, Alex Rae, Shelley Kerr, Graeme Souness and Walter Smith will also be making contributions – demonstrating the potential size of the market.
Will it be enough?
But it raises serious questions over whether that will be enough to secure the financial future of clubs in the SPL and, indeed, elsewhere.
With the costs of playing going up due to Covid precautions and the amount of revenue going down (Rangers TV costs £60 per year compared to season ticket costs of up to £724) there remains serious concerns over the long-term viability of professional football games being played behind closed doors.
In England, several clubs have already fallen into trouble, with Wigan going into administration and clubs like Charlton threatening to follow suit.
MP Damian Collins believes the Covid-19 crisis has put a spotlight on “the broken model” in place in the Football League.
In a bid to rectify it before it is too late he has put forward a six-point plan alongside the FSA.
Read the recommendations in full below:
• A ‘Football Finance Authority’ (FFA) scheme should be created by the Football Association – but working with and backed financially by the government – to provide financial assistance to EFL clubs.
• Funds should be provided by the FFA to allow clubs to meet their short-term liabilities and provide them enough breathing space to restructure their finances, but couldn’t be used to invest in recruiting new players or improving the club’s infrastructure. Rather than being offered as loans, these funds would instead be exchanged for a minority shareholding in the club, of between 10 per cent to 49 per cent, depending on the level of investment required and the value of the club.
• Independent directors would be appointed to the boards of clubs as representatives for this minority shareholding. These directors can be nominated by either a registered Supporters Trust or by the relevant local government authority, but they must be non-political and subject to approval as ‘Fit and Proper’ by the FFA.
• These Independent Directors shall have real-time access to the financial records of their club and can report their concerns back to the FFA. Clubs that continue to trade outside the rules of the EFL would be put into a form of administration by the FFA, where a credible plan would be implemented by independent auditors to bring the financial affairs of the club back in line with the League’s rules.
• Either a recognised Supporters Trust or a local authority can subsequently acquire the FFA shareholding in their club at a discount to market value, and funds raised in this way would be returned to the government to help repay the public investment in this scheme.
• The EFL’s financial regulations should be set and enforced by the FFA, the governing body of which should include representation from the EFL, the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), the Football Supporters Association (FSA) and the clubs themselves, but with an independent majority.
Read more about “A way forward for football” here.