Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack says Scottish football faces a bigger crisis than when Covid-19 first hit if there is no plan to get fans back.
Cormack fears a “tsunami” is bearing down on the game unless the government opens up immediate dialogue on the return of supporters to grounds.
He is concerned the crippling financial consequences of empty stadia will force clubs to slash costs at youth team and community level.
Faced with infuriating inertia over a sport which provides so much for communities, Cormack recently called for urgent talks with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and national clinical director Jason Leitch.
But the Pittodrie chief has heard nothing from either of them.
If no route map for the return of fans is broached, Cormack fears the Dons and other clubs will face major challenges when selling season tickets for the 2021-22 season.
And the Reds chairman warned immediate action is required to address the Covid-19-induced funding gap and stop clubs haemorrhaging cash.
The stark warning comes as the Dons annual accounts for the year ended June 30 2020 and projections for the current financial year show the devastating impact of the pandemic.
Turnover is expected to drop to £10 million, with an operating loss of £5m.
Cormack said: “The message is this: with no plan there will be significant cuts in Scottish clubs starting at the end of the first quarter of 2021.
“This is real for Scottish football and our societies.
“This is so important right now that this tsunami for Scottish football could really result in the mass reconstruction of clubs.
“It will start away from the first team as that will be protected.
“My feeling with Scottish football and not just Aberdeen is that if we don’t have a real plan towards the return of supporters by early next year it is going to be impossible for clubs to survive without restructuring.
“My feeling talking to clubs across the board is that everyone will do their best to protect their first-team’s competitiveness.
“It’s not the core activity (first team) that will suffer.
“You’ll have to look at everything off the field – your academies and community trust.
“The game is going to survive, but in what shape or form?
“What damage will be done to it with no plan?
“That’s the question.
“If there are significant cut-backs in academies, we risk, from the national team’s perspective, our competitiveness.
“My concern is – for the youth academy and up, what damage does this do?
“Again, it is just my opinion, I’m not saying for Aberdeen, but we have already seen cut-backs at those levels with clubs.
“What will it take for it to recover and that then has an effect on the national team at under-17-21 level.
“Also we’re not just talking about football fans.
“As a family club, at the heart of our community, we positively touch the lives of so many people of all ages and backgrounds, through programmes around education, health and wellbeing.
“It would be devastating if we had to pull out of these activities to reduce our outgoings.
“The trust’s income has been drastically hit by not being able to fund raise at home games or make use of the community facilities at Cormack Park.
“It’s whole communities that benefit from what we do as clubs – all the community trusts. That’s the aspect that’s at risk as well.
“If these community programmes are lost, what does that do for society?”
Aberdeen players, management and staff earning more than £30,000 per annum accepted wage cuts of up to 20% in July to offset the financial losses.
With no supporters, the club is still haemorrhaging cash.
Cormack said: “Despite a further £1.1m cash injection from our investors last month and a record player sale (Scott McKenna to Nottingham Forest, £3m) our financial gap, due to the ongoing pandemic crisis, is widening.
“We are sustaining losses for every home game we play without fans and may be forced to take further, painful measures to ensure the club’s future.”
Asked if the crisis coming could be bigger than the last nine months Cormack said: “If we have no plans for fans to be back, then absolutely.
“It’s night and day.”
In a financial year where the pandemic hit in March, the club’s annual accounts show a decrease in turnover of £1.59m from £15.928m to £14.335m.
There was an operating loss of £2.92m compared to £1.03m the previous year.
Wages rose from £9.24m to £9.77m during the period, increasing the wages-to-turnover ratio from 58% to 68%.
However, the longer-term impact of fans continuing to be locked out was revealed by the club’s projections for the current financial year with turnover expected to drop to £10m, with an operating loss of £5m, and a wages-to turnover ratio of 90%.
Cormack is determined to avoid job losses at the club.
He said: “What I will say is that myself, the board and the management team set out with a goal of having no redundancies at the club. That is still our goal.
“We have spent millions over the years building up the infrastructure including the academy and the last thing we want to do is disturb that.”
Without fans returning to Pittodrie this season, the club faces losing £5m of revenues from match day gate receipts, hospitality, advertising, sponsorship and retail.
He said: “My appeal has been to the authorities and government to lets sit down at a high level and have a conversation about what makes sense. As far as I am aware those conversations have not taken place.”
Asked if there had been any response to his recent plea to the first minister to open talks, he said: “No, it’s disappointing.
“There has been dialogue with various people at the JRG level but it’s three or four levels removed from decision making.
“When you try to put your case and it’s someone three or four levels removed from the First Minister, who knows where that goes? I don’t know.”