Scottish Daily Mail

DONS BID FOR FANS’ RE­TURN

Univer­sity medic sup­ports call to Holy­rood

- JOHN GREECHAN Chief Sports Writer Scottish Premier League · Soccer · Sports · Aberdeen · Scottish Government · Notts County F.C. · Ross County · Dundee United F.C. · Dundee · University of Aberdeen · Aberdeen F.C. · Scottish Professional Football League · Nicola Sturgeon · Scottish National Party · United Kingdom · Government of the United Kingdom · Scotland · St Johnstone F.C. · Douglas Ross

ABERDEEN have called in a med­i­cal ex­pert in a bid to get fans back into Pit­to­drie within weeks. The club have asked the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to ap­prove a plan to have 1,000 fans at the home game with Ross County on De­cem­ber 12 — and dou­ble that num­ber for the vis­its of St John­stone on Box­ing Day and Dundee United on Jan­uary 2.

And their pro­posal for the ‘test events’ has been sup­ported by Pro­fes­sor Gary Mac­far­lane, Chair of Epi­demi­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Aberdeen.

Af­ter car­ry­ing out an in­de­pen­dent re­view into the club’s pro­pos­als, Pro­fes­sor Mac­far­lane de­scribed them as ‘im­pres­sively ro­bust’. He said: ‘They fully take ac­count of the mea­sures which have been rec­om­mended by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to con­trol the spread of the virus in such set­tings.

‘It is my view that the high­lyreg­u­lated, out­door en­vi­ron­ment at Pit­to­drie, tested with just over 2,000 fans so­cially dis­tanced at two me­tres, would en­sure that the risk to in­di­vid­u­als is ex­tremely low.’

Dons com­mer­cial di­rec­tor Rob Wicks be­lieves the club can cope with the lim­ited crowds — and says the men­tal-health ben­e­fits to iso­lated fans should strengthen t heir c ase to t he Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, who ap­pear un­will­ing to per­mit crowds at sport­ing events in the short term.

‘The knock-on im­pact into next season could be cat­a­strophic, fi­nan­cially, for the club and com­mu­nity projects if we can­not give our fans some glim­mer of hope that they will be back watch­ing games at Pit­to­drie soon,’ ad­mit­ted Wicks.

‘We would like to think that our plan for a mod­est, in­cre­men­tal in­crease in the num­ber of fans able to at­tend matches would be ap­proved by the au­thor­i­ties.

‘ With only three lim­ited, but suc­cess­ful, Pre­mier­ship tri­als with 300 fans to date, there’s a clear need and a de­sire among clubs to test their pro­to­cols and pro­ce­dures with higher num­bers — which, in the case of Pit­to­drie, is sup­ported by the de­tailed in­de­pen­dent re­view car­ried out by Pro­fes­sor Mac­far­lane.

‘While it does cost more to open Pit­to­drie for lim­ited crowds, ver­sus closed doors, we want to of­fer our fans some hope of get­ting back to foot­ball.

‘Through our com­mu­nity out­reach, we’ve spo­ken with over 16,000 fans in the last six months.

‘Many are strug­gling with anx­i­ety, l o nel i ness a nd de­pressi o n. Al­low­ing our fans, many of whom live for the game, to grad­u­ally re­turn safely to Pit­to­drie start­ing in De­cem­ber will bring them some wel­come re­lief, joy and hope.’

Mean­while, Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive leader Dou­glas Ross met with SPFL of­fi­cials yes­ter­day af­ter they warned of a ‘death knell’ for clubs if grounds re­main closed to fans. And he called on First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon to get round the table with clubs and cross-party politi­cians to cre­ate a ‘route map’ back to watch­ing live sport for fans.

Ross, who told SPFL clubs he was ‘des­per­ate to get fans back i nto our clubs’, said the SNP Gov­ern­ment had re­ceived an ad­di­tional £8.2bil­lion from the UK Gov­ern­ment to fight the pandemic but, ac­cord­ing to the Fraser of Al­lan­der In­sti­tute, around £1bn of that re­mains un­al­lo­cated.

‘Our love of Scot­land’s na­tional sport i s be­yond ques­tion and none of us want to risk pub­lic health by t ak­ing t he wrong de­ci­sions,’ he said.

‘How­ever, the SPFL paints a bleak pic­ture of the dam­age this pandemic is do­ing to foot­ball and the risk of clubs go­ing un­der, never to re­turn.

‘No one is ar­gu­ing that foot­ball de­serves spe­cial treat­ment, but it’s en­tirely proper to ask for the SNP to at least ex­plain how it ar­rives at de­ci­sions which have such a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact.

‘Fur­ther­more, they need to start get­ting money out the door to help clubs who are on the brink. We know from the UK Gov­ern­ment that money has been made avail­able to the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to help clubs, but why has none of this found its way to the teams that des­per­ately need it?

‘Ni­cola Stur­geon must lis­ten and must ex­plain by giv­ing our clubs and fans the answers they de­serve. Her point-bank re­fusal to meet sug­gests an un­will­ing­ness to even lis­ten to the pleas from clubs and fans.’

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