This week saw football more like the way we know it return in England with 10,000 fans at six EFL matches. But despite successful test events, regular dialogue and detailed proposals made to Scottish Government, it seems that ‘Stadiums shut’ signs are remaining up this side of the border for the foreseeable future.
A much higher proportion of the income of clubs here comes from gate receipts than in the top divisions in England, making it even more important to get fans back into grounds soon. Or we run the risk of some teams not surviving this.
Aberdeen FC has been at the forefront of SPFL efforts to do this. Their plans will provide a highly controlled and regulated outdoor environment. They have been praised by a highly regarded professor as being comprehensive with an extremely low level for risk. So meantime, it’s ok to go into shopping centres, cinemas and travel on full aeroplanes but not to watch football. The inconsistencies are staggering.
P&J Live arrived here with a bang last September, breaking records, hosting global events and added a whole new dimension to our economy and life in the region. Since March it has resembled a massive ghost town.
The venue is part of a global group that has developed cutting edge protocols to ensure the safety of event attendees. A plan was signed off by senior cabinet ministers to run a series of test business events in November. It was ripped up not long afterwards with no sign of being back under consideration.
Aberdeen Performing Arts which runs HMT, the Music Hall and the Lemon Tree has written a joint letter with Eden Court in Inverness and supported by the Chambers of Commerce to Fiona Hyslop requesting urgent support in line with the Arts Council England Cultural Recovery Fund. Without this funding, the only alternative is severe cost cutting that will damage the DNA of these iconic places and put at risk their future viability.
But beyond this they too must be allowed to plan for safely reintroducing spectators. Currently they have no work on their stages before May and cancellations are being made in every month through 2021 so confidence and visibility around a return is vital. This is the only sustainable way to safeguard their future.
All of these organisations and venues have a key part to play in our community, economy and our wellbeing. And they are central to the wider strategy of attracting and retaining the very best people to live, work and study here to power our future ambition and to becoming a place of choice for tourists to visit.
So we are asking today: Why are their proposals to safely re-open being disregarded and flatly ignored by Government? That’s what we need to have answered and dealt with as a priority - or we risk losing them altogether and becoming a soulless northern outpost.