Hibs owner Ron Gordon at forefront of SPFL task force aimed at helping clubs through Covid cash crisis
Hibs owner Ron Gordon will chair an SPFL task force charged with looking at ways to boost Scottish football’s finances, which have been severely hit by the ongoing Covid crisis, and ensure the game does not sell itself short moving forward.
Based in the US, the Peru-born businessman is keen to consider what lessons, if any, can be learned from the likes of the cash-rich sports such as American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey, and which money-boosting innovations can be applied to the Scottish game. The working groups - branding and commercial - will also look at football’s relationship with sponsors in this country.
The lack of a title sponsor for the Premiership as well as the main cup competitions has been a source of angst for many involved in the game, especially at a time when the extra revenue would have helped see clubs through the pandemic and the precarious and costly past year.
The SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster announced this week that going forward the League Cup will be sponsored by Premier Sports, who have also extended their broadcasting rights, but the SPFL board have been unable to land a lucrative, top-brand backer for the main league and there is still no sponsor for the primary national cup competition.
One suggestion being put forward is that clubs all sacrifice a slice of their annual prize money to bring in full-time marketing and commercial experts to help promote the game and bring in sponsors.
Gordon believes there is a firm need for change as clubs look to recover from the impact of the pandemic and has absorbed the initial cost of bringing in external consultants to work with executives from Hibs, Aberdeen, Celtic and Rangers as they look to plug the drain on club bank accounts and find a way to boost income as they await the return of fans.
Some supporters will be allowed into Hampden for the upcoming Euro 2020 matches, leading clubs to assume that small crowds will be permitted at the start of next season but restrictions are not expected to be eased completely until the back end of the year, leaving clubs counting the cost.
But, attracting more outside finance into the game, and identifying money-spinning ways to improve and commercialise the match day experience, as well as looking for cost-saving collaborations or the introduction of new technology and green initiatives, could help balance the books.
“He is looking at what they do in America, in the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB,” said one club source. “And he was already doing that before Covid and looking at ways that could help Hibernian but now it’s about embracing the bigger picture. Clubs have had to make changes over the past year and this could be a way of turning that into a positive but Scottish football needs to work together for the greater good. The coming 12 months will be another test so if ever there was a year to change things, it's this year.
“Ron does not see any reason why we can’t all work together, with some external input, and come up with initiatives that involve not just the clubs, but the fans and sponsors, and that benefit the game and ultimately some of those revenues can be reinvested in our communities.”