The Joint Response Group continues to meet daily to discuss the impact of coronavirus on Scottish football.

Since last week’s decision to suspend all Scottish football matches, based on government and UK Medical Officers advice, the board of the Scottish FA has worked closely with its Operations Board to look at ways of alleviating the short-term cash flow burden on member clubs by advancing payments due for future distribution.

Further to those considerations, the Scottish FA Board has approved immediate funds totalling £1.5m to members from Club Licensing and Club Academy Scotland award payments. These would otherwise be payable towards the end of the year but will instead be distributed in the next 24 hours to help mitigate the financial impact of coronavirus and the suspension of matches.

  • Club Licensing- Payments will be made to clubs based on 2019 Club Licensing levels (Entry, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum).
  • Club Academy Scotland– We will make payments of 50% of the annual CAS fee to clubs in the programme.

Rod Petrie, Scottish FA President: “I am pleased to announce the immediate cash payments to members of Club Licensing and Club Academy Scotland amounts which were budgeted to be paid later this year.

“Given the financial uncertainty faced by clubs, we have looked at areas of distribution where we can accelerate and pay now, rather than wait to pay on the usual distribution dates.

The combined amount forward funded in this way is approximately £1.5m, which we believe will be of great support to clubs who face uncertainty and, worse still, a significant loss of revenue as a result of the impact of coronavirus in Scotland. 

“I would like to thank our Chief Executive, Ian Maxwell, and the Operations Board for their expediency in enabling us to bring forward the payments.”      

Updated FAQs

Following requests for further information from members and clubs, please find below rolling FAQs to inform key stakeholders of developments.

These continue to reflect updated guidance from the football authorities and the information issued by Scottish and UK Government in response to the coronavirus pandemic.  

  1. Coronavirus – what is the latest Government medical advice?

With over 2,600 confirmed cases in the UK to date the Government has updated its advice on both social distancing

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults

and for what to do if you or a member of your household have symptoms

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection

This advice is updated on a regular basis based on the best available medical and scientific advice.  For the most up to date information please see:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-list-of-guidance

  1. What do we expect from the Coronavirus Bill?

The Government has published a White Paper providing details on the Coronavirus Bill (the “Bill”).  The White Paper can be accessed here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-bill-what-it-will-do/what-the-coronavirus-bill-will-do

The Paper states that the Government are aiming for the Bill to become statute and take effect “from the end of this month”.  The White Paper also states that the Bill seeks to “enable the government to restrict or prohibit events and gatherings during the pandemic in any place…, and, where necessary, to close premises.” It is understood that this Bill will be debated in the House of Commons and House of Lords in the coming days. 

  1. Will the Scottish FA and SPFL offices at Hampden Park remain open?

Scottish FA:

The majority of staff are now working from home until further notice with a skeleton staffing structure presence in the Scottish FA offices who will perform critical tasks.

Scottish Professional Football League:

In line with Government advice, all staff have been asked to work from home from tonight.  The exceptions are Neil Doncaster, Iain Blair, Michele Shields and Rod McKenzie, will continue to be based in the SPFL offices at Hampden Park for the time being.

Divisional meetings will take place by video conference until further notice.  Michele Shields will be in touch with details.

  1. Should we close our club premises?

The Prime Minister stated on 16 March that he needed people to work from home if they possibly could.  It is a matter for individual clubs to determine whether, during this period, they close their club premises.  If you do decide to do so, please contact the Scottish FA and SPFL (at ann.quinn@scottishfa.co.uk and micheleshields@spfl.co.uk) to let us know your club’s contact details during such period, in the event that they are different from the email addresses and mobile numbers already held for you.

  1. Should we continue to treat injured players?

We understand the need to make sure that all your staff are fit and healthy.  Decisions on treating injured players should be risk assessed on a case-by-case basis in line with Government recommendations on personal contact.

  1. What support for employers is available?

On 17 March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a package of measures to support the economy. 

Further details are available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance Kate Forbes and the First Minister have both confirmed that all the ‘Barnett Consequentials’ arising from the business support measures in England will be passed on to support businesses in Scotland. Further, Scottish Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop has today confirmed that the UK’s package of measures will be replicated in full by the Scottish Government. 

For ease of reference, the key points from the Chancellor’s announcement are as follows (as summarised from the above link):

Statutory Sick Pay

The Bill will “seek to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible - the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit not
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force
  • the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible”

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

“A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch next week to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. Businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments.”

The website of the British Business Bank currently states that they are “in the process of defining and agreeing the scheme’s details, specifications and eligibility and therefore information is subject to change.” As such, please monitor the Government website and the following website closely:

https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/

Support for businesses paying tax

All businesses with outstanding tax liabilities may be eligible to enter into a Time to Pay Agreement with HMRC.

Please refer to the note circulated by the SPFL earlier today for how such agreements interact with the SPFL Rules.

If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

Support for Businesses paying Business Rates

The UK Government has stated:

“We will introduce a business rates retail holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. 

Businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019 to 2020 tax year will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible. 

A £25,000 grant will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000. 

Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority. Guidance for local authorities on the business rates holiday will be published by 20 March.”

As noted above, the Scottish Government today announced that it would be replicating the UK Government’s package of measures in full. As such, clubs are encouraged to monitor the release of any Guidance for local authorities.  The Joint Response Group will also continue to monitor further announcements and publications.

Support for Businesses which pay little or no business rates

“The government will provide additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBBR). This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs. 

If your business is eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, you will be contacted by your local authority – you do not need to apply.

Funding for the scheme will be provided to local authorities by government in early April. Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly.”

Insurance

“Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered, as the government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc is sufficient to make a claim.

Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics.”

Clubs are strongly encouraged to discuss their position with their insurers if they have not already done so.