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Elgin City set to miss out on promotion as SPFL chair warns that resumption of Scottish football season is 'impossible' without serious repercussions

By Craig Christie

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ELGIN City will be denied a shot at promotion if SPFL clubs vote to terminate the Ladbrokes league season.

SPFL clubs could vote to end season now
SPFL clubs could vote to end season now

But league reconstruction could come into play in Scottish football from next season, with a bigger league set-up one of the options under consideration.

All 42 clubs in the Premiership, Championship, League 1 and 2 are to vote on a resolution to finish the 2019-20 campaign now, with final season placings determined by points per game in league matches played to date by each club.

But the resolution also recommends that Premiership fixtures remain postponed to give the best possibility for outstanding games to be played.

With NHS Scotland placed on emergency status until at least June 10, and the Scottish Government advising that restrictions could remain in place for 13 weeks, it leaves little room to play remaining games and play-off fixtures ahead of the next campaign.

With this in mind, the SPFL has produced a written resolution asking clubs to approve:

  • the immediate termination of Season 2019/20 for the Ladbrokes Championship, League 1 and League 2, without the remaining fixtures in the League being played;
  • all play-off competitions being cancelled;
  • final season placings to be determined by the number of points per game earned by each club in the matches they have played.

If voted in, the resolution would mean that Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers would be promoted as the current league leaders in the three lower tiers.

Partick Thistle and Stranraer would also be relegated as the two bottom-of-the-league clubs.

There would be no play-offs, denying Elgin City the opportunity to play for their first promotion in 20 years of Scottish League football.

City were third in League 2 with eight games left when play was called to a halt, and had picked up considerable momentum with a run of six wins in seven games.

If the resolution is approved, the SPFL has also committed to consulting with clubs over the possibility of league restructuring ahead of Season 2020/21.

This would determine whether there would be an opportunity for Highland League champions Brora Rangers and Lowland League leaders Kelty Hearts to step up to league football next term.

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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