Gordon Smith: Clubs deserve the opportunity to invite fans back in.


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There is no doubt that due to the Covid 19 pandemic, we are facing unprecedented and stressful times and it saddens me to hear of deaths as a result of the virus. There is also no doubt that, due to the lockdown measures implemented by governments to curtail the spread of the disease, thousands of corporations are in deep trouble.

As a footballer, not only at the elite stage, but down to the grassroots, I am deeply concerned about the detrimental impact this has on soccer.

I have been claiming for months that we should invite fans back in with the right steps. It will provide much needed funding to help clubs avoid the huge financial losses they have suffered since March, apart from keeping fans involved and getting some atmosphere back into the games.

In implementing legislation to control the number of fans who can go to games in the top divisions again, Britain is ahead of us. What many do not realize is that this has been going on for some time in the lower levels of professional soccer there.

In early October, I spoke to a contact who told me he was in a crowd of 400 at the Lewis United match against Worthing. This is the sixth level of professional football in England, but it is part of the pyramid scheme that leads to league status. The stadium has a 3,000-spectator capacity, which means that about 14% of the stadium’s capacity has been used.

I don’t know Joe FitzPatrick, the Minister of Sport, and I know that he’s not a fan of soccer, so I’d like to know why it wasn’t approved in Scotland. We have already had “trials” where fans were permitted to play games in Aberdeen and Dingwall in very small numbers.

The word “trial” usually means from my soccer experience that a player is being tested to see if he is of an acceptable standard and that this is the basis for determining whether to give a contract.

What was the feedback on the return of fans to the venues? We should definitely have been told about the reasons why it was not possible to open other stadiums.

I am well aware that steps have been planned by our clubs to ensure that fans can return in limited numbers safely. They have a plan and are prepared to put it into action to comply with all the security measures that would be requested by the government.

Until recently, individuals were allowed back into the movie theaters, all of which are protected.

The government still gives leeway to the numbers when they meet outside in terms of family meetings.

I can state with confidence that all professional games are played outdoors in Scotland, so this definitely meets the hygiene requirements required.

In England, the new rules are focused on numbers related to each degree of ban, but for some time, I have been suggesting that we should work with a percentage approach. If we compare that to the current tier structure, then I will implement a proposal where 20 percent of the stadium capacity, tier 3 10 percent and tier 4 five percent will be enabled for levels 1 and 2.

All should wear a mask when entering and leaving the stadium and have their hands sanitized. They could also be told, if necessary, to stand during the game. If seating is allowed, if mandated, everyone could wear a plastic coat.

I really think this will succeed and the government needs to understand that soccer is our national game and that Scottish life is the most significant area of interest.

It has already been clarified that, as a proportion of the population, we have the highest number of spectators in Europe. Sadly, as we have limited broadcasting rights, we are also the most reliant on spectator income. For many societies in Scotland, our clubs are also the principal sport.

Before it’s too late, the government needs to remember these issues.

AND more than one element.

It was so sad to learn about the death of Diego Maradona this week. He was a soccer genius, and although there are others fighting for that honor, I think there are only three qualifying players: Maradona, Pelé and Lionel Messi.

I recall a discussion about 20 years ago with former Spurs center back Paul Miller. He told me the story of how his teammate, Ossie Ardiles, gave a testimonial against Inter Milan in May 1986 and Paul recounted


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