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SPFL defends Covid postponement policy after backlash from clubs

The SPFL argued that failure to apply the criteria consistently could undermine 'the integrity of the league'.

SPFL defends Covid postponement policy after backlash from clubs SNS Group
The SPFL argued that failure to apply the criteria consistently could undermine 'the integrity of the league'

The SPFL has offered a robust defence of its postponement policy after facing criticism following decisions not to cancel matches amid Covid outbreaks.

Dundee and St Mirren criticised the current rules after their requests for games to be called off were refused by the league body.

The SPFL argued that failure to apply the criteria consistently could undermine “the integrity of the league” and could result in the season being unable to be completed.

Under the current rules, which the league say were introduced at the start of the season and agreed to by all clubs, games must go ahead if teams have 13 available players.

On Sunday, Dundee were forced to play Aberdeen with just 15 players in the matchday squad, including 40-year-old assistant manager Dave Mackay.

Dundee boss James McPake said that the refusal to call off the game put both sides at risk and said the decision was “lacking class”.

Last week St Mirren were unsuccessful in their bid to get their matches against Celtic and Rangers postponed after a coronavirus outbreak in the playing squad.

But the SPFL have hit back and issued a statement aiming to ‘clear up misconceptions’ about the policy, while also confirming there won’t be a change to the rules mid-season.

Company secretary Calum Beattie said: “The new SPFL Board policy for postponing games due to Covid-19 cases was introduced at the start of the season specifically to deal with the circumstances we find ourselves in.

“Before finalising the new policy, we consulted with and listened to clubs carefully and incorporated specific elements such as the requirement to have a minimum of ten players aged 18 or over before matches could proceed.

“The SPFL Board policy was notified to all 42 clubs before the season started and provides certainty and consistency on the criteria for postponements.

“The SPFL has repeatedly demonstrated that we will postpone matches when the criteria is met – with ten league matches this season postponed already. 

“While we have enormous sympathies for any club which is unable to field its strongest team as a result of Covid-19, those calling for the policy to be changed midway through the season may not have considered the wider implications.

“Failure to administer the policy consistently could lead to clubs choosing not to fulfill specific fixtures, which would have massive implications for sporting fairness, increase pressure on other clubs and threaten the ability to complete the season.

“It is an essential cornerstone of the game that scheduled fixtures must be played when teams fulfill the necessary criteria.

“Failure to do so would undermine the integrity of the league, threaten completion of the season and would certainly cause far more problems than it would solve.

“Scottish football continues to operate in an extremely challenging and uncertain environment. This will undoubtedly mean that there are clubs most weeks who are struggling to fulfil fixtures.

“Already this season, we have seen many clubs complete fixtures with large numbers of players unavailable and we are grateful for the understanding and flexibility of those clubs, players and fans as they adapt to the challenges of Covid.

“If we are to complete the season as scheduled, clubs playing when their playing resources are stretched is, very regrettably, going to be a necessity. 

“The health and safety of all involved is always a key consideration and the SPFL, when reviewing postponement requests, liaises closely with the Scottish FA, Joint Response Group (JRG) and Elite Sport Clinical Advisory Group (ESCAG) regarding any situations with multiple cases of Covid-19.”