Clarity on Hibs-Hearts tie, Premiership relegation and Scottish football issues set to come from high-noon UEFA meeting

UEFA are set to hold another crunch meeting.UEFA are set to hold another crunch meeting.
UEFA are set to hold another crunch meeting.
SFA chief to dial into key meeting with governing body

UEFA has called a high-noon summit of all 55 of its members on Wednesday, which could provide fresh guidance on how Scottish football resolves the outstanding issues of the 2019-20 season such as Hearts’ potential relegation from the Ladbrokes Premiership.

European football’s governing body will hold the video-conference, at which Scotland will be represented by Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell, to deliver updates on possible solutions to finishing the current campaign which has been suspended by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Both the Scottish FA and Scottish Professional Football League have been taking legal advice on the issue after becoming increasingly sceptical about the 30 June deadline for concluding the season, which was set by UEFA at its previous video-conference of major stakeholders two weeks ago.

If the remaining SPFL fixtures cannot be played by then, it creates a number of contentious issues throughout the four divisions if title wins, promotions and relegations are awarded on the basis of league tables as they stood when football was suspended on 13 March.

Relegation and cup ties

Hearts, who would be relegated as they lie four points adrift at the bottom of the Premiership, have already indicated a willingness to take legal action if the authorities went down in those circumstances.

Hibs currently sit sixth in the Premiership and only have an outside chance of qualifying for the Europa League, with their best chance of success coming in the Scottish Cup, where they are due to face Hearts in the semi-finals.

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Edinburgh City are second in League 2 and are chasing promotion, while Bonnyrigg Rose – locked in a title race with Kelty Hearts in the Lowland League – will await a directive on the future of that competition. The Highland League has already awarded its title to Brora Rangers.

Celtic, 13 points ahead of Rangers at the top of the Premiership, would be given a record-equalling ninth consecutive title but the Ibrox club, who have a game in hand and 24 points still to play for, have made it clear they want the campaign played to a finish.

SPFL opposition

However, the SPFL remain firmly opposed to the alternative option of declaring the season null and void, due to the impact that could have on prize money and sponsorship payments due to clubs.

It is now believed that one of the working groups set up by UEFA two weeks ago is proposing a plan which would allow this season to be extended to August, with a subsequently modified calendar for a shortened 2020-21 campaign.

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Many leagues throughout Europe, including the SPFL, are anxious to retain some degree of continuity between the seasons which would ensure commercial contracts – such as the new £30 million a year TV deal with Sky Sports due to begin in Scotland from 2020-21 – are protected.

Scotland’s Euro 2020 play-off

Wednesday’s UEFA meeting will also consider fresh options for concluding this season’s Champions League and Europa League, along with the Euro 2020 play-offs which involve Scotland. The Euro 2020 finals have already been put back to the summer of 2021.

“UEFA has invited the General Secretaries of its 55 members associations to a video-conference on Wednesday 1 April at midday to share an update on the progress made by the two working groups that were created two weeks ago and to discuss options identified with regards to the potential rescheduling of matches,” said a brief UEFA statement issued on Monday afternoon.

“The meeting will look at developments across all UEFA national team and club competitions, as well as discussing progress at Fifa and European level on matters such as player contracts and the transfer system.”

Plans A, B and C

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UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin had earlier hinted at an extension to the 30 June deadline when he spoke to media in Italy, one of the countries worst affected by Covid-19 and where there was speculation Serie A will be called off with leaders Juventus declared champions, despite being just one point ahead of Lazio with 12 games left to play.

“If we don’t succeed in restarting, the season will probably be lost,” said Ceferin. “There is a plan A, B and C.

“The three options are to start again in mid-May, in June or at the end of June. There is also the possibility of starting again at the beginning of the next [season], starting the following one later.

“It’s hard for me to imagine all the matches behind closed doors, but we still don’t know whether we’ll resume, with or without spectators.

“If there was no alternative, it would be better to finish the championships. We will see the best solution for leagues and clubs.”