Scottish football: How might it look when it finally returns?

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The Scottish football season has been ended, amid some acrimony, and the prizes have been handed out.

Now it faces a whole new and even more labyrinthine range of complexities as it tries to plot a path through uncharted territory for the 2020-21 campaign.

Here, BBC Scotland examines the issues facing the game.

When is football likely to return?

After two months of uncertainty since the abrupt halt in mid-March, there is now a glimmer of clarity over a resumption.

The SPFL is planning for games in August and Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell says this is “definitely achievable”.

The Scottish government’s plan to ease lockdown restrictions puts football in phase two, which could come into effect around 18 June if strict criteria are met. And the SPFL will ask whether clubs can return to training – initially in small groups – on 10 June.

Scottish FA medical advice recommends around six weeks of pre-season before matches can take place, so an early August restart is not out of the question.

The League Cup’s scheduled mid-July start already looks doomed, however. A scrapping of the competition’s group stage may be a potential solution to buy some time.

Will matches be behind closed doors?

Most likely, at first. But that presents problems as matchday revenue is king in Scottish football.

The question is existential. With contracts to honour, or new ones to negotiate, and in some cases deferred wages to cover, how do you survive when you’re spending way more than you earn?

In the Premiership, gate receipts accounted for 43% of income in 2018 according to Uefa’s latest Club Licensing Benchmark report. That is almost three times higher than the European average.

Add in the cash from corporate hospitality, and supporters spending money inside the stadium, and it’s a business model heavily weighted towards the paying punter.

An added outlay will be the testing of players, staff and officials. Maxwell, though, says this is likely to cost around half of previous estimates of £4,500 per week and that the Scottish FA will look to help with funding.

And David Southern, the former Hearts managing director and Dundee United general manager, believes playing in empty stadiums is a workable temporary compromise in the Premiership.

“Realistically, I think they could all play at least up to the new year behind closed doors,” he said.

“OK, clubs are eating into any cash reserves – Dave Cormack at Aberdeen has mentioned £1m a month it is costing – but there is an enhanced TV deal [worth £160m over five years] about to start.

“Another thing is that a number of clubs are backed by extremely wealthy individuals – Cormack at Aberdeen, Mark Ogren at Dundee United, Ron Gordon at Hibernian. They bought these clubs because they see value in them. So they are not going to unduly starve their own business of cash.”

But what about the lower leagues?

Scottish football is likely to initially return behind closed doors

This is where it gets really messy. Outside the Premiership, the importance of getting fans through the turnstiles is even more stark.

Clubs’ very survival relies on ticket sales and filling hospitality lounges. Add in the fact the government’s furlough scheme ends in October, and it’s clear the prospect of playing in empty stadiums is seen as not economically viable for even some in the second tier.

Championship clubs have been issuing dire warnings. Ayr United say some could “revolt” or go into administration if forced to play behind closed doors, chiming with Queen of the South’s assessment of “financial suicide” if games go ahead without subsidies in place.

A scaled-down second-tier season of just 18 games – and delaying the season’s start until January – will reportedly