Back to the football, then. Well. Maybe.

If chat about football at this time feels inappropriate and small when there are clearly greater issues at play, it seems pertinent to offer a reminder that football is often the most important of the least important things to many people.

As we face long weeks of self-isolation and a serious disruption to normal life, it is only natural to hanker for a return to what we know. And bickering over football matters is something we seem to excel at, whether there are games being played or not.

This week there seemed to be a tacit admission of what we have known pretty much all along. Ann Budge suggested that in football circles there was an expectancy that there will be no return to normality before late summer.

Some are saying the season must be finished, others want it cancelled and declared void; both sides point the finger at the other with accusations of self-interest.

First of all, the idea the season could be declared null and void is a no-goer. It simply isn’t viable. The financial ramifications of doing so are simply just too great; where does the season money go for a season that never took place?

Where does the TV money go for games that were never played? And that’s before you think about sorting out European placings for next season.

More pertinently, declaring the season null and void is far from a neutral standpoint either. It is difficult to escape the notion that everyone speaks their truth as it bests suits them.

Yet, it is impossible at this moment in time to countenance a return to playing football again. With the pandemic still to reach its peak there is no chance of anyone kicking a ball any time soon, let alone getting the chance to watch it.

There is also the dreaded thought lurking at the back of the mind that next season – if this season was to be declared in some form or another – might not be immune to the effects of coronavirus. If there is a second wave and a second spike we will revisit what we are going through now with similar scenarios playing out.

While delaying any decision seems like buying time, the problem is survival. Clubs face the real possibility of going to the wall as they struggle to cope without the gate receipts and money coming in from hospitality and pie stalls and all the rest.

This time of year is normally when you can set your watch for season ticket renewals and new kit launches. Who can commit to any of that when this campaign is still in limbo?

And what about next season in terms of trying to bring players into clubs. For the vast majority, the personnel they can look to for a new campaign is inextricably tied into league placings – the difference between a third-place finish and a fifth-placed finish might well amount to an extra player.

In such grim times it is worth noting that football will prevail. It will return and there will be a joy in embracing the sport again.

But it is understandable that clubs should agitate to declare things as they stand. It would, of course, mean a divvy up of finances that would offer immediate relief.

Something for consideration could be the release of a percentage of those funds to tide clubs over.

Declaring the season as it stands will appeal to a few. But the real issue is those at the bottom whose very livelihoods will be threatened. Partick Thistle are two points behind Queen of the South in the Championship but have a game in hand.

Making the call to relegate them now would be a game changer and is entirely outwith the ethos of any kind of sporting fairness.

In some ways, pity those making the decisions because there are no easy or immediate answers. The only thing we can say with any real certainty is that the ripple effect of coronavirus will be huge as it spreads long into next season and beyond as clubs cope with the economic difficulties it has brought.


If the past week has felt surreal as the country has gone into lockdown, spare a thought for how trying the circumstances must be for those living in a different kind of nightmare.

Billy McNeill’s family are in the middle of a hell that is every parent’s cold sweat. Matthew McCombe, the grandson of the late McNeill, went missing in Amsterdam a fortnight ago without a phone, wallet or passport on him.

At any time such a situation would be ghastly. To endure it now when travel is limited, police resources are stretched to breaking point and news outlets have the coronovirus at the centre of every bulletin, adds another layer to the pain and frustration the family must be going through.

Unable to hold a press conference to sustain interest and bring forth any snippets of information must be hellish for the parents who have been left trying to keep the story of their only child in the minds of the public at such an unprecedented time.

Celebrating his 21st birthday in the Dutch city, McCombe went missing in the early hours of March 14 with the last sighting of him coming as he ran across the Berlage Bridge, believed to be around 8.15am.

Anyone with any information, regardless of how insignificant it may seem, is being urged to get in touch with the family via social media.