Chairman's View

Following the Scottish Government announcement today on exiting lockdown, Chairman Billy Hewitson has been sharing his thoughts about the return of football.  He says clubs across Scotland need to have some kind of financial guarantee before football can return and believes restarting the game without a package in place would be “financial suicide”.

Queens were due to host Ayr United in the Championship the day football was halted with a ban on mass gatherings due to the coronavirus outbreak.  Since then the club has been in lockdown with all staff, including management and players furloughed and the Chairman is keen to see the return of match days as soon as possible but insists it can only happen if the financial risks are taken away.

“As we continue to work our way through the current pandemic that has engulfed the country we along with other clubs are seeking clarity from the Scottish Government before we can make plans for the future”.

“There’s a lot of proposals being talked about, including playing behind closed doors.  This would only be an option IF there is a financial model in place from the Scottish Government, football authorities or any governing body who will cover the loss of income.  If there is no financial model in place then playing games without supporters would be financial suicide for clubs like Queen of the South”.

“You have to have revenue that covers your expenditure, if you have no income then you can’t spend money.  For us the biggest expenditure is player’s wages and I’m sure that will be the case for most full time clubs.  It might be a less of a risk for part time clubs as players have other employment”.

With no football since March the club's directors have been balancing the books, Queens like other clubs have welcomed the furlough scheme which has helped during a time of limited income.  Billy added “during this period and going forward with no supporters we have been and would be looking at running the club on just 30% of our income.  So it’s a dilemma for us; could we start up again and train for eight weeks with a view to start playing in August?  I thnk the Premiership clubs could just about do it but it’s not clear for other teams and the biggest problem is financial”.

“There are so many questions and a lot of unknown just now so that makes it difficult to say what is going to happen.  We want to be able to get back to full stadiums but we have to take Government guidance on that.  Match day testing would be impossible due to the number of games being played and the time it would take to get results back.  The hefty cost of individual testing machines would rule out clubs purchasing their own equipment so you would have to rely on mobile testing".

One other possibilty could be for clubs to play half a season - would that work for Queens?  "It would be a lot less risky as you could hold off signing players etc. but for me the ideal situation would be for the Government to underwrite the season and we can start immediately”.

While he waits for some clarity the Chairman will be taking part in discussions with his counterparts at other Championship clubs to try to find a way forward “over the next couple of weeks the Championship clubs will be setting out their own road map of how they see a return to playing.  There are five or six scenarios that could happen, but for me we all need to stick together and come to a collective agreement and come up with a proposal to present to the SPFL Board”.