Coronavirus Update – 14 May 2020

CORONAVIRUS – JOINT RESPONSE GROUP UPDATE

14 May 2020

Fortnightly update from the Scottish Football Restart sub groups

As previously outlined, the Scottish Football Restart sub groups are on a two-weekly discussion cycle, after which each chair will feed back on the work undertaken to plan and prepare for the return of Scottish football when determined safe to do so by the Scottish Government.

The six groups have now met at least once to discuss and formulate plans specific to their area of expertise in anticipation of the logistical and infrastructural challenges prevented by COVID-19 and with the safety and wellbeing of all participants of paramount importance.

Each sub group chair or co-chair has noted a unanimous commitment to working together to understand and resolve the complex challenges in reintroducing Scottish football.

Rod Petrie, Scottish FA President and JRG Chair: “I would like to thank the sub groups for the dutiful way in which they have embraced the challenges and responsibilities placed before them in finding a viable plan to restart Scottish football.

“At this juncture I would also like to acknowledge the clear guidance and pragmatic approach from the Scottish Government which anchor our plans in reality, and are based on sound medical advice and expertise.

“Naturally, we all wish to see football return as quickly as possible but we must continue to adhere to the guidance of the Chief Medical Officer whilst using the power of football to convey messages that will keep people safe and at home.

“The work of the sub groups is summarised below and shows the breadth and depth of work being undertaken to ensure a smooth and safe return at the appropriate time.”

Medical

Discussion areas

  • Review of European football’s landscape specific to restarting of training and provisional return dates to playing.
  • Review of outcomes from the roundtable discussions with Joe FitzPatrick, Minister for Sport and Public Health and Professor Jason Leitch, National Clinical Director.
  • Update on current position on medical screening and testing, with optimism that testing would become more accurate and widely available.
  • Player welfare.
  • Initial considerations and plans for the practical aspects of returning to training and playing.
  • Plan for re-emerging from lockdown including liaison with Scottish Government, testing, risk assessment and player/staff/match official’s welfare.

Next steps

  • Group divided into two work streams looking at specific tasks
  • Develop medical protocols for returning to training and matches as well as for screening, testing and management of COVID positive individuals, including return to play
  • Maintain joint working and discussions with medical colleagues in Scotland including Scottish Government
  • Regular core group meetings to drive direction and monitor progress

Club and Stadium Operations

Discussion areas

The initial meeting proposed a number of areas for exploration and the chair shared planning protocols from other countries, leagues, associations and sports including Germany, Spain, Norway, Korean K-League and Swiss Rugby Union.

The group was then divided into the respective areas to focus on four main pillars and discussions on potential provisions required.

  • Office Operations
  • Supporter/Partner Interaction
  • Stadium/Pitch Maintenance
  • Match Day Stadium Set Up

The sub groups reported back and discussed the detailed scenarios considered. The utilisation of ‘hub’ stadiums across the country with potential to host multiple matches over a weekend, centralise match day resourcing and manage spectator safety was discussed. Positives and negatives were noted and it was agreed that each sub group would consider this model as part of their ongoing activity.

Next steps

It was agreed that further consideration in each area was required prior to the recommendations for each section being collated to produce new operational checklists and protocols.

Club and Supporter Welfare

Discussion areas

  • Review of government guidelines for outdoor sporting events and consideration to wider implications for supporter travel and hospitality.
  • Scottish football’s reliance on match day supporter-related revenue re-emphasised.
  • Discussion on the processes around players returning to training.
  • Scenario planning for supporter inclusion at matches undertaken on the principle of 2m social distancing measures.
  • Subject of identifying ‘hub’ stadiums across the country with potential to host multiple matches over a weekend, centralise match day resourcing and manage spectator safety.

Next steps

  • Sub-group to widen out the principles of hub stadiums with a view to identifying supporter- based considerations on the use of such a model.
  • Working document to be compiled with supporter welfare at the heart of the model.

Broadcast and Innovation

Discussion areas

  • Broadcast and content opportunities.
  • Online streaming, UK & overseas (including payment mechanisms), in the event of behind closed doors (“BCD”) games or partially BCD games becoming necessary.
  • ‘Virtual season tickets’.
  • Radio, club channels and broadcast partner interaction.
  • Blocked hours.
  • SPFL media licences.

Next steps

  • A review of the SPFL’s 2019/20 and 2020/21 broadcast contracts and summarise key terms for the sub-group.
  • Working group to be created to focus on media licences and innovation.
  • Working group to be created to explore principles of behind closed doors or a hybrid model for Premiership (including technical, operational and pricing); separate group to discuss the above for Championship to League Two.

Regulation

The first meeting of the group established ‘flexibility’ as being the overarching principle of the work of the group. The group agreed to have the objective of achieving flexibility for clubs and members as a guiding principle in facing the myriad of regulatory challenges facing the game in the coming months.

Discussion areas

  • Requirements for any amendment to the 2020/2021 summer registration period (currently 10 June – 1 September). A decision on this would need to be reached prior to 9 June.
  • Current and ongoing issues/concerns in respect of player contracts including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
  • Application of Scottish FA disciplinary rules in light of COVID-19.
  • Measures and contingencies to deal with the potential for ‘rolling restrictions’ over a period of time to minimise disruption.
  • Potential competition regulation amendments for season 2020/21.

Next steps

  • SPFL sub-group formed to consider the structure and application of certain relevant SPFL Rules and Regulations and report back to the JRG.
  • Sub-group formed to discuss player contract issues and report back on key points with a view to an updated briefing note on the CJRS and related issues being issued following publication of the updated Government guidance.
  • Updated FIFA Covid-19 guidance to be circulated as and when received (expected late May/ early June).
  • Scottish FA to feed back on regulatory matters including registration periods, disciplinary rules, FIFA guidance with a recommendation to the JRG on the dates of registration periods to be made by the end of May.
  • Feedback on any specific issues affecting women’s football, Scottish Highland and Lowland Football Leagues, and non-professional and grassroots football.

Grassroots

An initial discussion with members of the sub group highlighted the need to prioritise the welfare of children, young people and the volunteer network throughout the period of lockdown and until further medical and governmental guidance is sufficiently relaxed to consider the restart of grassroots football at the appropriate time.

The group will continue to monitor the advice and liaise with relevant stakeholders in the meantime to provide a framework for future reintroduction of the grassroots game.

Discussion areas

  • Logistical challenges for a grassroots game dependent on a network of volunteers.
  • Welfare of players, parents and volunteers.
  • Availability of school, local authority and other facilities used by grassroots football.

Next Steps

  • Learn from the work in other sub groups.
  • Arrange future meeting dates to provide a framework for eventual reintroduction.

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