Scottish Daily Mail
DONS BID FOR FANS’ RETURN
University medic supports call to Holyrood
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.’