HALF of Scotland's leading clubs are suffering from "signs of financial distress", according to a report produced by a leading insolvency practioner.

The survey carried out by Begbies Traynor also revealed that three unnamed clubs in Scottish football's three top divisions - the SPFL Premiership, Championship and League One - are under "critical financial distress". The report also showed overall attendances across all four top divisions were down by 6%, with League 1 crowds dropping by 16% since last October despite Rangers' presence in the division. Attendances in the Championship were down by 8%.

"It's good news that one of the top level clubs [thought to be Kilmarnock], at least, has managed to clamber back from the financial precipice, and Hearts' future also appears brighter," said Ken Pattullo, of Begbies Traynor in Scotland, who produce their Red Flag Alert Football Distress Report every six months.

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"However it is worrying that three clubs are facing grave financial pressure and that the early symptoms of financial distress are affecting 50% of the clubs in Scotland's top three divisions. The wettest winter in decades has done its bit to dampen enthusiasm and declining attendance figures may prove to be the final nail in the coffin for some clubs already locked into a cycle of distress."

Pattullo also felt that there may be a move towards more clubs coming under community ownership in the season ahead, despite the recent announcement by Motherwell that take-up of membership for their Well Society has fallen far short of what had been anticipated.

"Annan Athletic, Ayr United and Motherwell are the latest clubs to take steps towards an ownership model based on the fans who offer a sounder prospect for building a secure future than the whim of the mythical wealthy benefactor," added Pattullo. "We can expect to see this movement towards an alternative business model gather momentum as the community interest company (CIC) proves its merit and offers a real prospect of salvation for financially weaker clubs."