SPFL clubs to vote on season end but Premiership not clear cut

The league body wants to finalise current standings in the Championship and League 1 and 2.

A decision on the fate of this year's competition is drawing near. SNS
A decision on the fate of this year's competition is drawing near.

The SPFL board will ask lower league clubs to vote to end their season prematurely but a call on the outcome of the Premiership won’t be made yet.

Instead, top flight clubs will be asked to give a vote on bringing the season to an end, but their decision will be used as the basis for further discussions with UEFA.

UEFA has warned associations they risk losing their Champions League and Europa League spots for next season if they call their top leagues without prior approval.

The SPFL will hold conference calls with all 42 clubs on Wednesday. It’s understood they will propose a resolution to vote on ending the season. Voting isn’t expected to take place on Wednesday.

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Voiding the season was also being put to members but is not considered a realistic option as it would lead to contractual problems and possible litigation.

Football has been suspended since March following the coronavirus pandemic. The likelihood of any competitive action returning before August or even September is slim. 

The prospect of going several months with no income could threaten the existence of some clubs.

However, if a decision is taken to end the season now, this would allow the governing body to hand out prize money for their final league placings.

In the Premiership, that would see Celtic crowned as champions, with Hearts facing automatic relegation, though that decision is not imminent.

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But an instant decision on the lower leagues would see Dundee United promoted to the top flight as Championship winners. The club are currently 14 points clear at the top of the league.

Partick Thistle would be relegated from the Championship, while Raith Rovers move up from League 1.

Stranraer would drop into the fourth tier, with League 2 promoting Cove Rangers as champions.

The promotion and relegation play-offs will be cancelled and final placings calculated on a points per game basis.

Some clubs had pushed for league reconstruction during the crisis and the SPFL has committed to discussions if the resolution is approved.

The vote will require 75% of Premiership clubs to be in favour, 75% of the Championship sides, and 75% of League 1 and 2 combined.

While lower league sides are expected to be widely supportive of ending the season and releasing funds, the Premiership decision would be more controversial.

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Rangers have already warned they would challenge any decision to crown Celtic as champions, while Hearts would take legal action if they were to be relegated without having played all of their games.

The primary stumbling block though, is UEFA’s desire for all of Europe’s top leagues to act uniformly and after consultation with the governing body.

After Belgium ended their league and named a champion, UEFA threatened that leagues who acted unilaterally would risk losing Champions League and Europa League places.

However, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has since indicated leagues could decide to end early, though only after consultation with the hierachy in Nyon.

The SPFL confirmed the vote in a statement on Wednesday.

SPFL Chairman Murdoch MacLennan said: “These are extraordinarily difficult times for our entire country and, like every sports body worldwide, we have been wrestling with the enormous challenges caused by the outbreak.

“To their credit, every single club in the SPFL has been committed to completing the remaining fixtures for Season 2019/20, but they also all recognise we must prioritise the safety of players, officials and fans, and ensure our emergency services are given every possible assistance to focus on their vital work. Many football people have friends or family who are working with the emergency and health services or who have been affected by this awful virus and I have been struck by the strong sense of solidarity shown by everyone in our sport.

“The communication from the Scottish Government at least gives us a degree of clarity, meaning it will now be impossible to fulfil the remaining fixtures in the Ladbrokes Championship, League 1 and League 2 without causing huge financial damage and uncertainty for Clubs in those Divisions. We have recommended a way forward which we firmly believe enables the best possible outcome for Scottish football in these very demanding and unique circumstances.”

SPFL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster added: “As a Board, we have consulted extensively with clubs in all four divisions since football was suspended on 13th March and have taken expert legal and commercial advice.

“Now is the right time to act. Very regrettably, we must face the reality that it’s simply not possible for the remaining Ladbrokes Championship, League 1 and League 2 fixtures to remain postponed without causing significant further financial harm to clubs in those divisions.  Further, many of our clubs are experiencing very challenging organisational and financial circumstances.

“Everyone in our game and in the country generally, is wrestling with the devastating impact of Covid-19. They all know there are no easy answers or simple solutions, but the Board’s recommended proposal will give us a far greater degree of certainty, minimise the harm to the game overall, and enable us make end-of-season fee payments now to Ladbrokes Championship, League 1 and League 2 clubs.

“The position for the Ladbrokes Premiership remains particularly complicated. Everyone is aware of UEFA’s desire for the family of European football to work together to resolve the issues that confront us all. We are keen to work with UEFA and remain in discussion with them over the situation in Scotland.

“The quicker we reach a final position the better, but there is no doubt this is the most complicated and challenging situation our game has faced in living memory.”


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