Football authorities in Scotland have welcomed commitments from the Scottish Government to hold talks on moving towards a resumption of sport.
The Joint Response Group – featuring members of the Scottish Football Association and league – plan to take part in a virtual meeting with sports minister Joe FitzPatrick early next month to discuss how sport can prepare for life amid the pandemic.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week told sports fans not to expect action any time soon and expressed major concerns over the risk of people congregating to watch closed-doors games on television.
The Joint Response Group subsequently announced plans to form six committees to prepare for life after lockdown and the make-up of those bodies has now been announced.
David Hamilton, the Scottish Government’s strategic football lead, will sit on all working groups other than the grassroots one.
A statement from the Joint Response Group read: “It is important to stress that this will be done in line with current Scottish Government and Chief Medical Officer advice – as updated in the First Minister’s publication of Looking Beyond Lockdown – and in cognisance of the current suspension of Scottish football until June 10.
“We also note the announcement today from Joe FitzPatrick, Minister for Public Health, Sport, and Wellbeing, regarding the creation of a virtual roundtable to discuss practicalities for the safe emergence from lockdown for sports bodies.”
SFA president Rod Petrie added: “We will continue to adhere to the government advice but equally we have an obligation to undertake the necessary preparatory work to ensure the national game is ready to return at the appropriate time.
“We are also mindful of the crucial role football can play as the national sport during the recovery period and have noted the proposed return of the Premier League in England by the Department of Culture Media and Sport in England ‘to raise the spirit of the nation’.
“We look forward to the opportunity to discuss football’s timeframe in Scotland in early course as part of the Scottish Government’s virtual roundtable for sporting bodies announced today.”
FitzPatrick promised support for all sports but he warned that the landscape in England – where football clubs hope to return in June to protect TV income – was different to that in Scotland.
He told a Scottish Parliament session: “We are seeing suggestions of changes of decisions elsewhere in the UK that is driven largely by media requirements rather than sporting requirements.
“We have to make sure that any steps we are taking in Scotland, while doing our best to support sport, also make sure we are limiting the spread of the virus, continuing to protect the NHS and saving lives.”
He added: “Sportscotland are working with governing bodies to understand the impact of the ban on social gatherings including the possible extension of the ban on public gatherings, and also how the Scottish Government can help them through this period.
“We want all clubs and organisations across all sports to survive this terrible pandemic. Scottish and UK Governments are providing a range of financial and business support and Scottish Government and sportscotland are working with the sector to understand what support they will need to restart their activities as soon as it is safe to do so.”