Coronavirus: Scottish football suspended indefinitely

The SFA and SPFl have taken the decision to cancel all games with immediate effect.

Matches, including the Old Firm derby scheduled for Sunday, have been called off. SNS
Matches, including the Old Firm derby scheduled for Sunday, have been called off.

All football in Scotland has been cancelled until further notice in response to the spread of coronavirus.

The SPFL and SFA announced the decision on Friday morning, saying it takes place with immediate effect.

Motherwell v Aberdeen in the Premiership and Queen of the South v Ayr United in the Championship were due to take place tonight.

And on Sunday, Rangers and Celtic were due to meet at Ibrox.

A statement from the governing bodies’ joint response group read: “The joint response group can confirm the decision of the Scottish FA board to suspend ALL domestic professional and grassroots football under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA until further notice.

“As a result, the SPFL has announced the postponement of this weekend’s and following midweek’s fixtures, starting with tonight’s Premiership match between Motherwell and Aberdeen and the Championship match between Queen of the South and Ayr United.

“The Scottish FA and SPFL will continue to liaise with governments and UEFA in relation to domestic, European and international fixtures in the coming days and more information will be communicated at the appropriate time.

“The Scottish FA board made its decision in the interests of the health and safety of players, match officials, staff, supporters and the general public.”

Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA chief executive, said: “Since the guidance outlined by governments last night we have been engaged in extensive dialogue to clarify the position and implications of that guidance for Scottish football.

“Today’s announcement is made in the interests of public health but, equally, the health and safety of players, match officials, and staff across the game. This is of paramount importance as the country enters the ‘delay’ phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is also why the Scottish FA is compelled to ensure that the suspension is cascaded through the non-professional and grassroots games until further notice.”

In a statement issued on Thursday evening, the joint response group had said that this weekend’s games, including the Old Firm derby between Rangers and Celtic, would go ahead.

An emergency SPFL board meeting was held on Friday morning though, where the decision was taken to implement an immediate suspension of competitions.

Neil Doncaster, SPFL chief executive, said: “As everyone knows, this is a fast-moving and unprecedented situation for the entire country.

“We have been in intensive and detailed discussions since last night and have also been taking on board the experience of our counterparts in England and across Europe. As a result, the board of the SPFL has agreed this morning that all league fixtures this weekend and next midweek will be postponed until further notice.

“The health and safety of fans, players and officials is absolutely paramount. We have not yet had any confirmed cases of Coronavirus amongst players in Scotland, but, given the nature of this outbreak, it seems only a matter of time.

“We realise that many people will be bitterly disappointed, and we would obviously prefer to be in a position where we can continue as normal, but that’s neither realistic nor possible.”

Leagues across Europe have suspended competition, or ordered games to be played behind closed doors, while UEFA have scheduled a meeting for next week to discuss the impact on continental and international matches.

Current advice from the UK and Scottish governments is that sporting events can continue as planned but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that a ban on public gatherings of more than 500 people will come into place on Monday.

However, the English Premier League, Football League and Women’s Super League announced a month-long shut-down on Friday morning, hours after it was confirmed that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta had tested positive for the virus.

Steps had been taken by the SFA and SPFL since the outbreak of the virus, including a ban on pre- and post-match handshakes, and issuing reminders on hygiene.

Clubs had also been advised to check insurance policies with the financial impact of cancellations or empty stadia expected to be severe.

Other sports are also dealing with the impact of the pandemic. The Elite Ice Hockey League has announced the cancellation of all remaining matches for this season, with Andy Murray’s return to the court will be delayed after the ATP suspended the tennis tour for six weeks.

Pro14 have shut down club rugby, meaning Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby are out of action, though Saturday’s Six Nations match between Wales and Scotland goes ahead as things stand.

You're up to date

You've read today's top stories. Where would you like to go next?