Scottish football stands at a crossroads as debate rages on after the SPFL’s suspension. Is it really fair to relegate Hearts? Have Dundee United put too much effort into coming up to the Premiership?
Such talking points would have been unthinkable just weeks ago but here we are. The SPFL season has been suspended until further notice as the country braces itself for the peak of a Covid-19 pandemic sweeping through the globe.
There are so many scenarios that could unfold out of all this, so we are taking a look at five that could happen.
Bin the League Cup group stage
The group stages of one of Scotland’s domestic cups could be scrapped in order to make way for the rest of the 2019/20 fixtures. Usually at this time, every SPFL team outside those competing in Europe, plus Lowland and Highland League winners, play for a place in the last 16.
There’s a sponsor to appease but anything is possible if this outbreak causes football disruption until the summer. The league season needs finished by early July if UEFA is to stick to its 2020/21 plan.
Scottish teams will likely need some room to maneuver once things get going again. If that is to be the summer, the League Cup group stage could be replaced by the final stages of the 2019/20 season.
Play behind closed doors
This was long rumoured to be the SPFL’s measure to combat the Covid-19 outbreak. Its rapid development has seen them move straight for a suspension instead.
Players have already started to show symptoms of the disease, leading to self-isolation for at least a week, with Hearts, Inverness and Stenhousemuir all having players in self quarantine.
But as the mandatory isolation period is seven days, clubs could still have enough players to play on a matchday, providing there wasn’t a mass outbreak within the club. Playing without fans though could see gate money lost, a huge hit for smaller clubs especially.
Call the league as it is
This would have to be the last resort option for the SPFL, but at this stage, it can’t be ruled out. This virus is spreading rapidly and it’s unlikely to vanish in the next few months.
It could be genuinely impossible to get these fixtures on again, leading to the season finishing as it stands. The relegation and promotion play-offs would likely be cancelled, but promotion and relegation for top and bottom sides would be awarded.
That would mean joy for Cove Rangers, Raith Rovers, Dundee United and Celtic, who would be crowned champions. For Brechin City, Stranraer, Partick Thistle and Hearts though, it could cause critical damage.
This scenario would almost certainly play out with financial and legal ramifications.
Null and void
This again would be a controversial option, this time with potential league winners. This option is the polar opposite of calling the league as it is, as you’d simply be cancelling the 2019/20 season.
It would almost be as if it never happened. For clubs like Dundee United who have poured so much into their return to the Premiership, this would be extremely harsh and a bit unfair.
But as the pandemic rumbles on, nothing can be ruled out unfortunately.
One way they could decide final standings is through play-offs. It’s an option being mooted in Serie A as fears over the continuation of their league season continue to grow.
This would obviously provide excitement but league leaders aren’t exactly going to be too keen to play knockout-like matches when they’re already sitting top of their pile, surely.
It would provide great entertainment value after weeks of cold storage – but getting everyone to agree this is the way forward could prove a challenge.