Tuesday’s soccer news has the Scottish Premier League officially calling an end to its 2019-20 season. The decision comes weeks after a club vote ended the season in the lower divisions. All of Scotland’s leagues used points per game to decide the final table with Celtic champions and Hearts relegated.
“We would all have rather seen the league season played out on pitches, in stadiums and in front of supporters,” Scottish Premier Football League chairperson Murdoch MacLennan said. “This is not the way anybody involved with Scottish football would have wanted to conclude the league season but, given the grave and unprecedented circumstances that we are facing, the Board has agreed that it is the only practical way forward. Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on sporting competitions around the world and the repercussions will be felt for a long time. Scottish Government restrictions and deep concerns for both player and spectator safety left the SPFL with no realistic option but to call the Ladbrokes Premiership now and we thank the Premiership clubs for their support on this decision.”
As SPFL CEO Neil Doncaster made clear, ending the season now means regrouping to try to begin the 2020-21 season on time on August 1. “Nobody should be under any illusion as to how complicated and difficult a challenge it will be to return Scottish football to normality,” he said. “We will be liaising with Government on the best way forward and working to ensure that all of our 42 clubs are playing football again as soon as humanly possible.”
Scotland is considering a broader revamp of its league structure, something that will require the consensus of its clubs. Across Scottish professional soccer, economic uncertainty is a major concern. That’s something ending seasons partially addresses with the leagues paying out prize money. All of those issues are part of a statement released by Hearts following its relegation.
“Hearts will shortly submit a member’s resolution that we believe is a pragmatic solution to the issues the game currently faces and a way forward that the clubs can unite behind,” the statement read. “It is our belief that this resolution, if supported, will provide an opportunity to avoid disproportionately disadvantaging – financially and otherwise – any club. This is possibly the final chance for our game to stand together, protect each other and not only survive but flourish in the aftermath of this terrible pandemic. Players from across all leagues have shown a desire for reconstruction and having already received support from some clubs we are hopeful that this resolution can positively progress Scottish football. As previously intimated the club has been taking legal advice throughout this process and are continuing to do so. We hope that the resolution being prepared will avoid the need to go down this route. Legal action would be both time consuming and expensive. However the cost to the club of relegation would outweigh these considerations.”
Once again, this raises UEFA’s concept of sporting merit. Relegation from France’s Ligue 1 also raised the threat of legal action with Amiens eventually filing a case last week. The problem for leagues is that UEFA didn’t set clear guidelines for how to end a season, much less mandating points per game. Belgium ended with the table as it stood. The Netherlands voided its season with no champion and no relegation or promotion. That also led to reports of legal challenges.
Meanwhile, England’s Premier League continues to move forward with its Project Restart, loosening some of the training guidelines. While there is no hard date for games returning, the league is targeting the middle of June. The Guardian’s Barney Ronay outlines the issues with making that date while acknowledging the risk involved. Reuters’ Simon Evans has the Premier League wondering if there’s a better way to present closed door games than what we saw over the weekend from the Bundesliga. The Independent’s Miguel Delaney looks at a potential salary cap in England’s lower divisions.
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