East Fife have been fined £11,000 after refusing to play their match against Clyde on Tuesday.
The League One side took the decision after being informed that a Clyde player had received a positive Covid test result 30 minutes before kick-off and had been sent home.
The Methil club said that they would not play, with several players concerned about the risk to their pregnant partners, while others worried about their employment if they were forced to self-isolate. However, both teams had been told by Scottish football’s Joint Response Group that the risk was minimal and that the game could go ahead.
East Fife’s decision forced the match to be postponed and brought a disciplinary charge from the Scottish Professional Football League for failing to fulfil a fixture.
The club admitted the charge and an SPFL sub-committee handed down an £11,000 fine, of which £1000 is payable immediately with the remainder suspended.
A statement from the league read: “The hearing followed East Fife failing to fulfil a League 1 fixture against Clyde FC on 27 April 2021.
“A Clyde player had, immediately prior to the 27 April Match, received a positive COVID-19 test result. That test had been administered on the previous Saturday and was relevant to Clyde’s forthcoming league match on 29 April.
“It was wholly coincidental that the result of the Saturday test became available on 27 April. The Clyde player was, entirely properly, immediately withdrawn from the Clyde FC squad for the match on 27 April and sent home.
“East Fife were advised by the match referee and representatives of Scottish football’s Joint Response Group that the match could safely go ahead and that none of their players would have been identified as ‘close contacts’ of a positive case by playing in the match.
“In the light of this advice, the SPFL advised East Fife that, should they not play in the match, their failure to do so would be subject to an SPFL investigation and potential disciplinary action. East Fife players decided, unilaterally, not to take part in the match and that decision was supported by the club and by its manager. East Fife were charged with failing to fulfil the fixture, and admitted breaching SPFL Rules G5 and G53.
“East Fife admitted breaching SPFL rules and confirmed that, if the match were to be rescheduled, they would play the match.”
A spokesman for the SPFL added: “Clearly, the circumstances surrounding Tuesday’s match were difficult for all involved. However, the advice from members of the Joint Response Group was clear and unequivocal.
“Following such advice, which is informed by frequent discussions with the ESCAG, has been, and remains, crucial to achieving an orderly conclusion to SPFL competitions.
“While the SPFL has sympathy with players who may not have had all relevant information, no League or other football body can accept a situation in which a club fails to fulfil a match in circumstances where all of the medical advice is that the match can safely proceed. There has been no recorded case, worldwide, of any on-pitch transmission of COVID-19.
“We would like to thank East Fife for their early admission of the charges. We appreciate the difficult position of the East Fife FC Board, faced with a decision having been made by their players.”