THE theory that sport and politics should not mix has never really stood up to scrutiny in Scotland.

In reality, it is always going to happen and there are undoubtedly issues when two matters - which are too tribal, too emotive and, in different ways, too important to those involved - merge and collide.

But at a time when the nation is being urged to think and act collectively, there has to be common ground found in each camp and across sectors.

Sport and politics are now intertwined, destined to spend the foreseeable future locked in talks, living closer together with one another.

Whether they like it or not, the working relationship between Government and sport authorities is as important today as it ever has been.

Scottish football may not be the top priority for Nicola Sturgeon and her Cabinet right now, but it cannot become a high-profile victim of the Coronavirus pandemic.

At a time when the most pressing matters are saving lives, protecting others and keeping the economy functioning, many will see it crass to even discuss the fate of our national game.

But football’s importance to Scotland cannot, and should not, be overlooked. It is as an integral part of our country as the tourism industry or the arts and when a list of worthy causes to receive support is being drawn up, the game simply has to be near the top of the list over long days, weeks and months ahead.

The chances of a financial lifeline being cast into the sea of uncertainty that is Scottish football appear slim right now.

When it comes to preserving jobs and services here, the SNP answer seems to be to demand the extension of the UK wide furlough scheme.

If Holyrood needs Westminster to fund the Covid recovery, it is hard to see how Holyrood can help Hampden on its own.

In the update from the Joint Response Group on Wednesday night, it was noted that the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Joe FitzPatrick MSP, is seeking discussions with Westminster counterparts regarding a financial package that Scottish sport could access.

Hospitality and retail will make their claims for a sliver of whatever pie there is from the Scottish Government and sport has to make its own case to ensure it is not left behind.

There will be those that say no assistance should be forthcoming for any sport, but that narrow-minded viewpoint would forget the role that football plays in driving the economy and the millions of pounds - measured in hundreds and not tens - that is generated around the game each and every year.

The news on fans that clubs were dreading was delivered in the First Minister’s update on Tuesday and the six-month timescale set out by Prime Minister Boris Johnson would have sent a shiver down the spine of chairmen and chief executives of clubs up, down and across Britain.

When fans bought season tickets earlier in the year, they did so in the knowledge that they would, at best, get to see a couple of live matches this season. Even that hope was something of a long shot back then.

Despite difficult personal and financial situations, they found the money to give to their club, seeing it almost as a sense of duty. It was a donation in a time of need but surely a one-off gesture.

Without the turnstiles clicking over, it is hard to see how clubs survive. And that is as stark for clubs at the top of the SPFL as it is those at the bottom.

Ticket revenue accounts for 43% of all the income that clubs in Scotland generate but the impact of the five million fans that watch their teams in action here is felt far beyond their respective grounds. Football feeds the economy and the empty stands are a costly exercise for businesses as well as the clubs.

“We are engaging with the Scottish Government to underline the existential threat to many of our clubs, and to the huge community, economic and sporting benefits they deliver, if this grave situation continues without meaningful public financial support," Neil Doncaster, the SPFL chief executive said. "We therefore welcome the intervention of the Scottish Government in seeking urgent discussions with the UK Government about a package of financial recovery for Scottish sport.”

When fans are eventually allowed back into grounds, the game will no doubt be at the test event stage once again. Hundreds, not thousands, will be let in to see their team.

The notion of Ibrox or Parkhead being full is fanciful, even if you look several months into 2021. But when could Motherwell expect a few thousand inside Fir Park, or Aberdeen be multiplying their test event crowd several times over at Pittodrie?

Fans will always argue the case for football and scenarios have been, and will continue to be, banded about regarding why it is safe to do X but not do Y.

As the rules continually change, so do the double-standards and the hypotheses.

Packed pubs or shopping centres are fine, for example, but fans can’t be spread out over a stadium or a racecourse.

At times it has felt as if sport is an inconvenience to our decision makers, but the problems are not going away.

The exceptions to the rule - step forward Boli Bolingoli and the 'Aberdeen Eight' are obvious but Scottish football has, on the whole, played the game in recent months. Guidelines have been followed, changes have been implemented and those involved have done what they have been asked for the good of the game.

Now it is payback time. Now Scottish football needs help. Or it will soon, sadly, be too late.