GAMES OFF: Scottish football suspended outwith SPFL Premiership and Championship leagues

Hampden Park. (Picture: SNS)Hampden Park. (Picture: SNS)
Hampden Park. (Picture: SNS)
All Scottish football has been suspended outwith the top two leagues, the Scottish Football Association has announced.

A meeting last night discussed the escalating COVID-19 situation across the country and has decided to shutdown all football from the SPFL League One level, and below.

Football at these levels, including Scottish Women’s Football Premier Leagues, The Highland and Lowland Leagues and affiliated East, West and South of Scotland divisions will be off until at least the start of February.

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The Championship exemption from the suspension is dependent on clubs beginning weekly coronavirus testing, already a procedure in the top flight.

All Scottish Cup ties due to be played before February 1 have also been cancelled and will be rescheduled.

Rod Petrie, Scottish FA President said: “The Scottish FA is well aware of the efforts all clubs take to comply with the exacting protocols that were conditional on elite football being given an exemption to continue amid the pandemic.

“None the less the continuation of football at all levels has weighed increasingly heavy on me as President, my colleagues on the board and the Joint Response Group as we have watched the new strain of the virus spread rapidly.

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“While the national sport has been afforded the privilege of elite sporting exemption, the risk of mass transportation of untested, largely part-time players is something that cannot be sustained as the cases continue to rise and available hospital beds become increasingly scarce.

“After discussions with the SPFL, the Premiership and Championship will continue on the proviso that both adhere to the existing testing regime. The vast majority of teams in those divisions are full-time professional clubs and so the risk of transmission remains manageably low. The cost implications to lower-division clubs was one factor but so too the realisation that many – with some notable exceptions – consist of part-time players who are either prevented from working due to the virus or have to work.

“In either case, the risk is currently too great amid the developing nationwide spread of the virus.

“Much has been said of football’s relationship with the Scottish Government during the pandemic. As President of the Scottish FA and Chair of the Joint Response Group, I am grateful for the clinical expertise provided by government specifically to football and for the timely award of £30m in grant and loan funding for the game.

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“We reiterate our commitment to playing our part in the collective effort to eradicate the virus.”

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said it fully supports the SFA move and “is a sensible and necessary step”.

Celtic are due to face Hibs tonight in the Scottish Premiership, and St Johnstone travel to Dundee United tomorrow.

However the decision will rule out this week’s rescheduled Scottish Cup ties – although Camelon’s match with Brora WILL go ahead at the sixth attempt. The Mariners earlier tweeted that the tie, with the winner to face Hearts in the second round of the competition, looked set to go ahead with more favourable weather conditions at the re-arranged venue in Denny and have received official confirmation that the sides can meet after their Boxing Day clash was abandoned at half-time.

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