When will the East of Scotland and Lowland League restart and when will Edinburgh City return to action after the latest Covid shutdown?

Football outside the Premiership and Championship is suspended (Photo by Bill Murray / SNS Group / SFA)Football outside the Premiership and Championship is suspended (Photo by Bill Murray / SNS Group / SFA)
Football outside the Premiership and Championship is suspended (Photo by Bill Murray / SNS Group / SFA)
Scottish football outside the top two tiers of the SPFL is now suspended, the Scottish FA has announced.

After 2020 was disrupted by coronavirus and restrictions and an early finish to the football season, the authorities have brought in another break in play this month.

Here’s what you need to know about the January shutdown announced by the SFA this week.

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Why has the season stopped?

The Scottish FA announced that the season would be brought to a temporary stop from 0.01am on Tuesday, January 12, after discussions with the Scottish Government and health officials over the escalating COVID-19 situation across the country.Key for the SFA board was the government’s wish to reduce travel and possible contact with others whilst safeguarding commercial broadcasting contracts that sustain the professional game.

But I thought football was allowed, even in a lockdown?

In most recent cases, yes. Updated Scottish Government guidance permits the continuation of professional sport, and football was included – though games were being played behind closed doors in all but the lowest tiered restriction areas. However the decision was made to suspend all leagues outside the top two tiers.

President Rod Petrie explained: “Although football had 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.”

Who is affected?

All grassroots football had already ceased under the most recent Scottish Government measures, however the SFA has decided to impose a three-week minimum half on football from the bottom – all the way through to SPFL League One and the Women’s Premier League. That means Edinburgh City in League Two, Whitehll Welfare, Civil Service Strollers and Spartans in the Lowland League plus the Ladies’ sections of Hearts and Hibs will all be in shutdown for at least the next three weeks.

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Leagues affected are: SPFL League One and League Two, Scottish Women’s Football Premier Leagues 1&2, East, West, South of Scotland Leagues, Highland League, Lowland League, Scottish Junior FA Leagues and North Caledonian League.

SPFL Championship sides are exempt on the proviso they undertake the same weekly testing regime currently carried out by clubs in the SPFL Premiership.

When will teams be back?

The suspension of the game below the SPFL Premiership and Championship will be for three weeks, until January 31, but will be reviewed on a rolling basis by the Scottish FA Board in partnership with Scottish Government.

So it could be longer.

Anything else we should know?

These are, of course, subject to change and three weeks would appear to be a minimum time out of action for the lower league clubs.

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The season was already shortened – with clubs below the Premiership playing just 27 games in a season which kicked off in October – after the lengthy shutdown which came into effect last March and this year there was no planned winter break as a result.

The Scottish Cup will also be suspended, with any matches scheduled to be played before February 1 rescheduled for later in the season – that includes all remaining fixtures in round two and all of round three.

The Betfred Cup, which is poised to hold its semi-finals at the end of January, at present appears to be unaffected. The participants in the penultimate stage of the competition – Hibs, St Mirren, Livingston and St Johnstone – are all Premiership teams.

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