Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack has launched a ferocious attack on the Scottish Government for refusing to let fans back to games.
And he accused National Clinical Director Jason Leitch of spending more time on Radio Scotland’s Off The Ball than he has helping cash-strapped football clubs.
Scottish Health and Sports Minister Joe FitzPatrick will finally outline the details of an emergency support package for Scottish sport in parliament on Thursday.
Scottish teams in regions graded at tier two and above are still prevented from letting fans in
On Wednesday night, however, Cormack told Holyrood that clubs would rather see a plan for the return of fans than hand-outs.
Warning of ‘mass redundancies’ unless supporters are back by the spring, he believes SPFL sides have been treated unfairly by a government blanking a request for talks
Urging Professor Leitch to spend less time on Tam Cowan and Stuart Cosgrove’s BBC radio show and more time helping toiling clubs, Cormack told Sportsmail: ‘Now that a vaccine is coming it’s more important than ever to try to get a plan together.
‘Why wouldn’t the decision makers in government sit round a Zoom screen with Peter Lawwell, Stewart Robertson, Ron Gordon or me and say: “What is it you guys believe is a reasonable plan to get fans back into grounds”?
Aberdeen were granted permission for 300 fans return to Pittodrie for test event in March
‘From our perspective, the fact they haven’t done this for three or four months is crazy.
‘They keep saying they are going to talk to us. They keep saying “the door is open”.
‘But Jason Leitch has spent more time on Off the Ball than he has with any of the clubs.
‘We are not trying to cry wolf here.
‘If there is no plan and we are sitting here in April with no fans, I am telling you clubs will go under.
‘There will be mass redundancies over and above those already taking place – which most clubs have kept quiet about.
‘We haven’t done any at Aberdeen, but there will be redundancies and players will suffer as well.
‘Nobody will renew contracts with no plan and younger players who are the lifeblood and the future of the industry will be let go.
Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack has hit out at the Scottish Government over fans ban
‘If you are sitting there counting your pennies in March, April or May, people are going to do their utmost in the first team. And everything else will go.’
Aberdeen were granted permission for a test event which saw 300 fans return to Pittodrie in March. However, despite epidemiologist Professional Gary Macfarlane backing the Dons’ request for 2,000 supporters to come back to Pittodrie – with the club spending £30,0000 implementing Covid-compliant measures – teams in regions graded at tier two and above are still prevented from letting fans in. That’s despite indoor hospitality venues in the same tiers receiving the green light.
Addressing suggestions that the SPFL’s vocal approach to the issue has been counter productive, Cormack insisted he won’t be silenced. ‘I don’t want to be on the back pages or doing all this publicity, but I am not going to sit back and say nothing. We have tried the private route. We have tried numerous times privately to get with the decision makers and they won’t meet with us.
‘What is wrong with holding a government accountable when, through Jason Leitch, they have encouraged clubs to invest in all these protocols and then performed a U-turn?
‘They told us that in the summer. All 12 Premiership chairman, Neil Doncaster and the SFA were all on that call.
‘Jason has admitted himself that he said it. So why can’t he tell us clinically and medically why going to a shopping centre on Black Friday with thousands of unregulated people is better or safer than what we have proposed?’
Cormack accused Jason Leitch of spending more time on Off The Ball than helping clubs
Privately, club chairmen are concerned by the likely impact on season-ticket sales for next season unless supporters see some evidence they can return to games soon. With crowds allowed back in limited numbers by the UK Government in some regions of England, he added: ‘If there is no plan in place in the next six weeks then how are clubs going to sell season tickets for next season?
‘We have to sit down, decision makers to decision makers, so that we can give the fans some hope about crowds coming back next season.’
The Atlanta-based businessman also believes the work clubs do for the vulnerable in local communities will be slashed to the bone without some hope of fans being allowed back soon.
Cormack has personally manned up to 200 phone calls to isolated fans on behalf of the Dons Community Trust recently and explained: ‘It will cost us to open Pittodrie for 1,000 fans or 3,000 fans.
‘But we think it’s the right thing to do from an isolation, loneliness or mental welfare point of view.
‘Here we are in the middle of winter with no plans from government to support us in terms of fans coming back.
‘What’s wrong with bringing a bit of relief, joy and hope?’
Some help for Scottish sports clubs starved of gate income is likely to come today after Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes outlined plans for cabinet colleague FitzPatrick to reveal details of a rescue package.
‘We are not looking for a handout,’ responded Cormack. ‘We are looking for a plan.
‘Having 300 fans at Level one is not a plan. We have already tested 300 fans successfully.
‘We need a plan which is a reasonable basis for getting started next season.’