IN a career that has spanned six decades and seen him travel to the four corners of the globe in a number of different capacities, Tony Higgins has dealt with a wide array of complex crises, from match fixing to institutional corruption. 
Yet, Higgins, the one-time Hibernian and Partick Thistle midfielder who is now the Scottish representative of the international footballers’ union, FIFPro, knows the coronavirus pandemic far outweighs anything he has witnessed before in a lifetime involved in football
“There has never been an emergency like this,” he said. “This is not affecting a section of the game, it is impacting on the whole game. It is terrifying.”
The former PFA Scotland chairman has monitored developments in world football closely and with growing concern in the past week as the sport around the planet, from Champions League right down to grassroots level, has been placed into cold storage indefinitely.
FIFPro have been involved in emergency talks with both UEFA and FIFA about how best to address the coronavirus outbreak and are currently locked in ongoing discussions with both of those bodies as well as other stakeholders about the wisest course of action moving forward. 
The shutdown is set to have devastating financial ramifications for both clubs, many of whom are fated to go out of business due to loss of millions of pounds of vital income, and players, who will lose their jobs when they do, in the weeks and months ahead.  
However, Higgins believes that ensuring the safety of everyone involved in the sport has been the priority to date and is confident that objective has been secured by suspending leagues, halting cup competitions and postponing international matches for the foreseeable future.      
“The big thing was the health issue,” he said. “FIFPro were really worried that players would be in the front line. People may argue that players are young and physical beings and would probably be able to cope with it. But they could pass it on to other people, to members of their family, to grandparents. 
“We were stressing in the early stages the need for cognisance of the potential health issues. We were doing that internationally and also on a local basis as well. The PFA in England and Scotland went down a similar tack. 
“But what we have been doing at a global level and a European level is speaking to FIFA and UEFA frequently, having discussions with them, to ensure that health is a priority. 
“Colleagues I have spoken to say that UEFA will only talk about their competitions, use their influence on their competitions, discuss timelines on their competitions. They will leave all domestic leagues and federations to determine how they operate within their own sphere. 
“But FIFPro have been arguing strongly that all the local player associations have to be involved in any discussions. It is a global crisis in football, the first ever of this nature. It is important that people have dialogue and debate what is going on at a local level in an effort to find the best solutions.” 
Higgins continued: “Everybody has been led by the medical experts. They accept, and in fairness to UEFA, they accept as well, that at this particular time we have to be led by medical people. 
“They have to determine the framework. They obviously accept that has to be the first priority, the health of players, coaches, the football community and everybody involved in the game. They have no problem at all with the leagues having to take this type of action at all.”
It is still unclear when Scottish football will start up again; the SFA and SPFL Joint Response Group confirmed in an update on Thursday evening that the shutdown would remain in place until at least April 30. 
However, the group emphasised that, with coronavirus not set to reach its peak in the United Kingdom until the end of May or middle of June, the suspension will last far longer. 
Higgins feels the uncertainty over their future and inability to play will take a heavy toll on footballers and is confident that FIFPro, who represent the interests of professional players worldwide, will do everything they can to ensure their wellbeing during a traumatic time.  
“I know that mental health concerns are a big issue and guys who work in this area in Scotland and England are deploying all of their resources for that service to be put out,” he said. “FIFPro have been driving the mental health agenda for many years through our medical department. 
“Obviously, securing the resources to keep the clubs afloat are a big thing, but all sorts of people involved in the game, the players and the coaches and administrative staff, have big issues as well. All these services will be brought into the equation.
“I have been observing what has been going on and supplying information. I worked for many years with FIFPro on issues of match fixing, corruption in different parts of the world. I saw at first hand when players were not being paid or were denied opportunities to earn money for three months, six months. But there has never been anything like this.”