SPFL suspends League One and below but Premiership and Championship can continue

Ronnie Esplin, PA
·3-min read

The Scottish Football Association board has suspended professional football beneath SPFL Championship level for three weeks due to the escalating coronavirus situation.

The Scottish Premiership will be exempt from the suspension, provided it continues to adhere to the stringent testing protocols, and the Championship will also be able to continue provided it commences weekly PCR testing.

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.

“Nonetheless 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.

“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.”

The impacted leagues are: SPFL League One, SPFL League Two, Scottish Women’s Football Premier Leagues One and Two, Highland League, Lowland League, East, West and South of Scotland Leagues, Scottish Junior FA Leagues and the North Caledonian League.

Petrie said: “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.

  • SPFL Leagues One & Two

  • Scottish Women’s Football Premier Leagues One and Two

  • Highland League

  • Lowland League

  • East, West and South of Scotland Leagues

  • Scottish Junior FA Leagues

  • North Caledonian League

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

Neil Doncaster, chief executive of the SPFL, said: “We have been in very regular contact with our colleagues at the SFA in light of the latest worrying developments regarding the spread of Covid.

“The SPFL board met this morning and fully supports the Scottish FA’s proportionate and appropriate response to the worsening situation across the country.

“It is a sensible and necessary step which balances the need for the game to continue to play its part in limiting the spread of the virus whilst also ensuring that the top two divisions, which provide the overwhelming bulk of the income which supports the wider game, are able to be maintained for the good of the entire sport.”