St Mirren call for change to rules after playing through Covid crisis

The club say they don't believe SPFL rules were applied 'appropriately or fairly'.

St Mirren call for change to rules after playing through Covid crisis SNS Group

St Mirren chairman John Needham believes the SPFL needs to change the current rules on handling Covid cases at clubs, saying that his club wasn’t treated appropriately or fairly this week.

The Paisley club applied to have their midweek game against Celtic postponed after a number of positive tests within the squad left 11 players out of their plans, with the club stating that they didn’t have enough senior players to field a team.

SPFL rules state teams must go ahead with matches if they have 13 fit players, including a goalkeeper, as long as 10 players in the squad are over 18.

The request was rejected and St Mirren fielded a makeshift side against Celtic that included inexperienced players and with academy players on the bench.

Needham said that he didn’t think the league body had applied the rules properly, or that the existing regulations were fit for purpose.

In a letter to fans on the club’s website, he apologised for the uncertainty around the game, and praised manager Jim Goodwin and his players for their efforts in earning a 0-0 draw with Celtic before addressing the league’s procedures.

He wrote: “On behalf of the board I also want to record our disappointment at the situation we found ourselves in throughout yesterday.

“We understand that rules exist and are essential for the fair conduct of sporting competitions. However in the current pandemic we also feel that there needs to be judicious application of the rules, in this case, to take account of the law and guidance issued by Government around testing and isolation.

“We do not believe the rigid application of rules, agreed in a different set of circumstances, is appropriate or fair.

“We had to take the field last night without 11 of our first team squad and a substitutes’ bench where none of the players had played first team football for the club. Indeed the situation would have been worse had we not received negative PCR Test results around 6pm allowing the players in question and their close contacts to play.

“If those tests had been positive we would have been forced to field all of the players listed as substitutes in the starting line-up.

“We plan to write to the SPFL to highlight the difficulties we faced and our view of the need for change.”

Speaking to STV earlier in the day, SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster had expressed sympathy for clubs struggling with Covid outbreaks but said that the rules were agreed to help clubs and that it was imperative that games were played to avoid problems later in the season.

“The board has set a policy at the start of the season that if you have a relatively small number of players then the game goes ahead,” he said. “Clearly we’ve got huge sympathy for clubs who find themselves in the situation where they’ve got Covid in the camp and reduced numbers, having to bring in players who potentially haven’t played in the first team before.

“They simply have to get the game on if they have sufficient numbers.

“We have sympathy but we have a responsibility equally to all 42 clubs to get these games played where they possibly can.”

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