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Page last updated at 12:18 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Scots clubs braced for hard times

By Chris McLaughlin

Scottish clubs are feeling the pinch
Scottish football clubs are feeling the effects of the credit crunch

The majority of Scottish football chairmen have told BBC Scotland that the credit crunch is squeezing club business and they expect it to worsen.

In an exclusive BBC survey, all 42 professional clubs answered questions about their fight against the downturn.

One of the major concerns for clubs is corporate sponsorship drying up as businesses cut back.

Sixty-nine percent said that satisfying the banks and retaining sponsors was the biggest off-field challenge.

Most remain bullish in the face of troubling times, but there is also some frank realism that the game won't escape without casualties.

Some call for big changes, others say the game is well placed to ride out the storm - some even suggest it could be good news in the long run.

Bank managers are under pressure too, so it's understandable, but yes they are looking for more money from us

Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson

Most admit that business is affected, with 81% saying that income has been impacted by the economic downturn.

"There's no doubt we've been hit - my fear is that this is just the beginning though," said one worried chairman.

At the moment an obvious concern is getting people through the gates at matches. However, almost 70% said the biggest off-field challenges they face are retaining sponsorship deals and keeping some very nervous banks happy.

"Bank managers are under pressure too, so it's understandable, but yes they are looking for more money from us," said the Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson.

"Anywhere they think they can pull money in, they will. Everyone is in the same position."

Most of the club chairmen also mentioned a decline in the uptake of corporate sponsorship.

"When things are tight in business it's usually the first thing to be cut," said one First Division chairman.

"It's big business for some clubs though and there's no doubt that it'll have an impact."

There is some good news though. If there was no escaping the credit crunch, then it seems now is a decent time for Scottish football to be bitten.

Football finance expert David Glenn from Price Waterhouse Coopers believes clubs had already started addressing some worrying debt trends.

"Scottish football caught a cold four or five years ago and realised that debt levels were just far too high," said Glenn.

"Since then most clubs have taken drastic steps to cut costs - if they hadn't, many would be facing financial meltdown."

There are other factors to consider for the well-being of football's future and other questions addressed in the BBC Scotland survey.

The game's top men have also given their views on issues such as attendances and the quality of entertainment on the pitch.

Chris McLaughlin's series on the state of Scottish Football finances continues on Wednesday 18 March 2009.

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see also
Livingston wages row rumbles on
26 Feb 09 |  Livingston
Stranraer future 50/50 - chairman
21 Jan 09 |  Stranraer
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26 Sep 08 |  Hearts

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