The SFA have suspended professional football in Scotland beneath the Scottish Championship for three weeks as Covid-19 cases rise across the country, the Scottish Cup also suspended.
A board meeting was held over the weekend to discuss the rising cases and its impacts on football. Factors considered were public health, taking cognisance of the government’s wish to reduce travel and possible contact with others whilst safeguarding commercial broadcasting contracts.
It has now been decided that football will be suspended in some areas for three weeks. Leagues affected include SPFL League One, SPFL League Two, Scottish Women’s Football Premier Leagues 1 & 2, Highland League, Lowland League, East, West & South of Scotland Leagues, Scottish Junior FA Leagues and the North Caledonian League.
The Premiership will be exempt from the suspension, provided it continues to adhere to the stringent testing protocols. The Championship will also be able to continue provided it commences weekly PCR testing.
The suspension of the game below the Premiership and Championship will be for three weeks, until 31st January, and will be reviewed on a rolling basis by the Scottish FA Board in partnership with Scottish Government.
The Scottish Cup will also be suspended, with any matches scheduled to be played prior to the 1st February to be rescheduled in due course. Rod Petrie, SFA 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.
“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.
“We reiterate our commitment to playing our part in the collective effort to eradicate the virus.”