There is no escaping the fact we are experiencing unprecedented and difficult times due to the Covid-19 pandemic and it saddens me to learn of any deaths caused as a result of the virus. There is also no denying the serious hardship being experienced by thousands of businesses due to the lockdown restrictions imposed by governments to try and control the spread of the disease.

As a football person, I am extremely concerned about the damaging effect this is having on the game, not just at a professional level but all the way down to grassroots.

I’ve been advocating for months that, with the right measures in place, we should allow fans back. Aside from maintaining fans’ interest and bringing some atmosphere back to matches it would offer much-needed assistance to help clubs plug the massive financial losses they have been experiencing since March.

England have gone ahead of us by applying regulations to control supporter numbers who can once again go to matches throughout the senior divisions. What many people don’t realise is that this has already been happening at the lower levels of the professional game there for some time.

I spoke to a contact in early October who informed me that he had been in crowd of 400 at a Lewis United v Worthing match. This is England’s sixth tier in the professional game but is part of their pyramid system leading to league status. It’s a 3,000 capacity stadium, so that meant that almost 14 per cent of the stadium capacity was in use.

I don’t know Sports Minister, Joe FitzPatrick, and I understand he’s not a football fan, but I’d like to know why this has not been acceptable in Scotland. We’ve already had “trials” where fans were allowed, in very small numbers, to attend matches in Aberdeen and Dingwall.

Now, from my football experience, the word “trial” generally suggests that an assessment is being made regarding a player to determine if they are of a suitable standard and that forms the basis of a decision on whether to offer a contract.

What was the feedback regarding the fans being back in these venues? Surely we should have been informed of the reasons why no other stadiums could be opened.

I’m fully aware that our clubs have prepared measures to ensure that fans can return safely in small numbers. They have a strategy and are ready to put it into action to comply with any safety measures the government would require.

Until recently, people were allowed back into cinemas which are all indoors.

In terms of families meeting up, the government are always giving leeway to numbers if they are meeting outdoors.

I can confidently say that all professional matches in Scotland will be played outdoors, so surely this meets the hygiene demands required.

The new rules in England are based on numbers relating to each lockdown tier but I have been expressing for some time that we should operate on a percentage-based approach. If we relate that to the tier system in place then I would introduce a plan where Tiers 1 and 2 would be allowed 20 per cent of the stadium capacity, Tier 3 allowed 10 per cent and Tier 4 five per cent.

Everyone would wear a mask and have their hands sanitised on entering and leaving the stadium. If required, they could also be advised to stand throughout the match. If seating was allowed then each person could wear a plastic cagoule if this was mandatory.

I truly believe this would work and government needs to realise that football is our national game and the main interest area of Scottish life.

It’s already been detailed that we have the largest crowds in Europe as a percentage of population. Unfortunately, we are also the most dependent on spectator money due to our limited broadcast deals. Our clubs are also a main sport interest to many communities around Scotland.

The Government needs to consider these points before it’s too late.


It was so sad to hear about the passing of Diego Maradona this week. He was a football genius and although there are others who vie for that title, I believe that just three players qualify: Maradona, Pele and Lionel Messi.

I recall around 20 years ago speaking to former Spurs centre-back Paul Miller. He told me the story of when team-mate Ossie Ardiles was given a testimonial against Inter Milan in May 1986 he told Paul that he was going to see if Diego could come and play for Spurs that night. Paul thought “no chance”.

There was no announcement but on the night Ossie walked into the dressing room an hour before kick-off accompanied by Maradona. Paul and the other players were speechless. Paul then asked Ossie if Diego would sign his match programme. Diego agreed and suddenly every Spurs player had given him their programme.

As he sat down to sign the bundle he had on his knee, Ossie said to Paul “watch this”. He then rolled a ball down toward Diego. Diego just smiled and flicked the ball up and while he sat and signed all the programmes he played keepie-up with the ball. All with his left foot.

Paul said that even though he was brilliant later in their 2-1 win over Inter, he never forgot that and that was a measure of how special he was.