Cancellations or postponements of professional football games in Dundee could lead to both city clubs losing out on up to £500,000 in revenue, a football finance expert has warned.
There have been 36 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Scotland, with two of those reported in Tayside and as the disease spreads across Europe, major leagues in Italy, Germany and Spain have chosen to play fixtures behind closed doors in an effort to prevent further infections.
The actions of football chiefs on the continent has caused many to fear the same could happen at home, with Scottish and English leagues affected by call-offs and postponements.
Arsenal v Manchester City in the Premier League in England was postponed last night due to coronavirus fears and the SPFL has said it is being kept abreast of all the latest developments.
If decisions were made to call games off between now and the end of the season, Dundee and Dundee United could suffer financially as a result.
Neil Patey, of Ernst and Young, who is an expert in Scottish football finance, said: “Given the rough nature of the estimates, I would say that each club could lose in excess of £500,000 each in tickets sales, match-day sponsorship and other match-day revenue if all remaining games were cancelled or postponed.”
With the season close to its end, re-arranging remaining fixtures could lead to a bottle neck situation and clubs would be forced to squeeze in as many games as possible.
Dundee still have nine games left in the Scottish Championship, with five of them scheduled for Dens Park.
Dundee United, currently on track for a return to the Premiership as they sit at the top of the league, have eight fixtures remaining and three at Tannadice.
Gordon Smith, the former chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, believes a situation where games were called off would be impossible to manage for clubs, with fixtures already piling up as the season reaches its climax.
The ex-Rangers and Kilmarnock striker said: “The worst case scenario would be playing all future matches behind closed doors – that would make a massive impact.
“I don’t think that they would cancel or postpone games, there’s not enough space in the calendar to re-arrange.
“I think in that situation, if games had to be cancelled, it would be the government that would have to make a statement, then you would decide that the season has to change.”
As it currently stands, there are no plans to suspend the season or play matches behind closed doors, however Scottish clubs such as Rangers have already been impacted by the virus.
The Ibrox club’s Europa League game against Bayer Leverkusen, which is to be played in Germany, will now be played behind closed doors.
Premiership club St Mirren also released a statement on Wednesday, asking any supporters who had cold or flu-like symptoms to stay away from their match with Hearts.
It is feared that large scale events of over a thousand people can increase the likelihood of catching coronavirus.
But a professor at the University of Aberdeen has warned travelling to the game and going to the pub afterwards is even more risky.
Hugh Pennington, a professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said: “At a football match the biggest effect is not on the stands, but if you go to the pub afterwards, well that’s bingo.
“Travelling to the grounds also increases the chance of infection as many travel by ram and bus.
“It’s travelling to the ground that I would guess is a greater risk than being in the stand.
“If you ban fans from going to the games and they watch them in the pub instead, that could be a lot worse. There’s all sorts of trade-offs.
“I think the real reason for a ban would be that travelling there increases transmission.”
The Dundee clubs declined to comment on the coronavirus threat, with both leaving communication on plans to the SPFL.