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Scottish Government releases £55million funding package to help sports

Hibernian v Rangers – Scottish Premiership – Easter Road
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

The Scottish Government has announced a £55million funding package to help sports navigate the pandemic in the form of grants and low-interest loans.

Most of the money is earmarked for football while rugby will receive £20milllion.

Top-flight football clubs will be able to access loans totalling £20million while £10million in grants will be available for clubs at all other levels including women’s football.

Help is at hand for Scottish rugby

Help is at hand for Scottish rugby (Jane Barlow/PA)

Grants totalling £15million will be available for Scottish rugby as well as £5million in loans.

Horse racing will have £2million in grants available while £2million will be granted to ice rinks with a further £200,000 earmarked for ice hockey.

Grants will also be given to motor sport (£400,000), basketball (£300,000) and netball (£100,000).

The announcement came three weeks after sport in England was told of a £300million UK Government rescue package, five-sixths of which will be in the form of loans.

Sports minister Joe Fitzpatrick, right, announced the funding

Sports Minister Joe Fitzpatrick, right, announced the funding (Jane Barlow/PA)

Scottish Sports Minister Joe Fitzpatrick said: “I am pleased to announce this substantial funding package, which will help to ensure those sports which have been worst affected by the loss of ticket revenue during the pandemic are able to bridge the gap in revenue until spectators are able to return safely to sports events in larger numbers.

“While restrictions on supporters at events have been vital in stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives, there can be no doubt that they have created real hardships for many sports clubs.

“These clubs are at the heart of our communities and, without urgent financial support, the survival of some could be in question.

“I’m delighted that we are able to provide significantly more support than the Barnett consequential funding received from the UK Government Sports Winter Survival package.”

Fans watched Ross County against Rangers on Sunday

Fans watched Ross County against Rangers on Sunday (Jeff Holmes/PA)

Only sports venues in the bottom two of five tiers of coronavirus restrictions in Scotland are able to admit fans with the likes of Ross County and Inverness hosting about 300 supporters in recent games.

Fitzpatrick added: “I recognise that for football in particular, governing bodies, clubs and, of course, supporters themselves are desperate to see fans back as soon as possible.

“Sport brings great enjoyment to the many people who watch and play, and we don’t want supporters to be delayed in returning to stadiums for any longer than is absolutely necessary.”

The funding comes on top of an earlier £1.5million Covid recovery fund administered by sportscotland, which also accelerated £32million of annual funding and loosened criteria for sports governing bodies.

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Sportscotland chief executive Stewart Harris said: “This announcement is very welcome as the funding will help protect the immediate future of many clubs over the coming months.

“We will continue to work with a range of Scottish governing bodies of sport and the Scottish Government to prioritise this funding to ensure the survival of the sports at the heart of our communities.

“With the roll out of the vaccine this week there is real hope that we are beginning to see our way out of this pandemic, and we need to make certain that sport is in a good place and is a prominent part of the overall recovery plan.”

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The Scottish Rugby Union welcomed the news and said it would review the details with the Government.

A statement on Twitter read: “We are delighted to receive this important level of support for rugby at this critical time from @scotgov which recognises the importance of our game to Scotland.

“This vital funding will enable us to protect & support our sport given the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 right across the game and in particular our current inability to host spectators.”