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Stephen Craigan

Why Scottish football is right not to play games without supporters

Stephen Craigan


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No fun: I was involved with Northern Ireland when we played Serbia behind closed doors in 2011, and it was a soulless experience

No fun: I was involved with Northern Ireland when we played Serbia behind closed doors in 2011, and it was a soulless experience

No fun: I was involved with Northern Ireland when we played Serbia behind closed doors in 2011, and it was a soulless experience

Common sense prevailed when the Scottish FA announced all domestic matches under their jurisdiction would be suspended until further notice due to the growing concerns over coronavirus.

People's safety is paramount and let's not forget that. Our football clubs will also need supported and guided through this difficult time by the governing bodies, so it's a testing time for all.

No one has any idea of the impact the virus will have, so delaying initially is a sensible decision.

There was talk of playing games behind closed doors to fulfil fixtures but if I'm honest postponing matches was the only option viable at this minute.

I say that for a couple of reasons and the first one is the financial implications a lot of clubs in Scotland would suffer from with closed-door games.

The income stream from home games is the lifeblood of so many clubs and if that is taken from them it could be catastrophic. Scottish clubs aren't awash with cash so stopping their main source of revenue could see a few going to the wall.

Postponements can hopefully allow games to be rescheduled further down the line, meaning our game and clubs can come out the other side of this coronavirus pandemic intact.

Lower league clubs in particular are community hubs for so many young boys and girls to play football and it's vital that they get the chance to stay afloat.

The SFA and SPFL have a responsibility to all the clubs and their existence so I'm sure they will have a plan in place to support them if necessary.

Secondly, playing in front of empty stadiums benefits no one from a personal point of view.

I was involved with Northern Ireland in 2011 when we went to Serbia for a closed-doors game and I have to say that it was completely soulless.

The game itself lacked real intensity and felt like a training match at times. It's not something I'd like to see replicated in our game if it can be helped.

With so many things still to play for in the Scottish Premiership and the climax of the season nearing, the energy from supporters can help their team and that could be the difference.

Celtic are clearly waltzing their way to the title but the battle for third place between Motherwell and Aberdeen is ongoing. The relegation conundrum is also still in the balance with Hearts at the bottom, so supporters still have a big part to play.

We all know that football is nothing without supporters, so I applaud the authorities for taking the stance they have. We don't want to see the game we love played out in front of empty stands so if and when we get the virus under control, fingers crossed we can get back to finish the season.

When you put all of that together, then suspending games is the best and only option as it currently stands.

So many Scottish clubs are so close to the breadline and closed-door games could be catastrophic for them financially.

Belfast Telegraph