EDINBURGH, Scotland — Scottish clubs have voted to end the season for leagues below the top-flight Premiership with immediate effect amid the coronavirus pandemic, organizers said Wednesday.
A resolution by the Scottish Professional Football League to halt the season, and determine final placings by the points per game of each club, was passed after second-tier team Dundee reversed its earlier intention to reject the proposals.
Dundee was the last of the 42 teams in Scotland’s league system to vote. Its vote meant the resolution reached the 75-per cent approval threshold required to pass.
The initial `no’ vote submitted by Dundee electronically did not reach the SPFL by an agreed deadline of last Friday, meaning the club was controversially given extra time to make its decision.
The SPFL’s proposal has plunged the Scottish game into chaos and acrimony, with three teams declared champions – Dundee United in the second-tier Championship, Raith Rovers in the third tier and Cove Rangers in the fourth tier – and one team from each division getting relegated without the season being completed.
"It is grossly unfair that any club should be relegated from their respective league whilst a quarter of the season still remains," read a statement from Stranraer, which will be relegated as the last-place team in the third-tier League One.
"We strongly felt that at this time more than any other that Scottish football should demonstrate the absolute philosophy of real `sporting integrity’ in order to ensure a collective responsibility to all member clubs."
The cancellation of the three lower leagues in the Scottish soccer pyramid means a similar decision can be reached on the Premiership – the 12-team top tier containing the country’s biggest two clubs, Celtic and Rangers – if the remaining games cannot be played because of the virus outbreak.
Rangers is among the clubs to strongly oppose the SPFL proposal, as is Hearts, which stands to be relegated from the top flight if it is halted. Celtic currently leads the Premiership by 13 points.
Play in Scotland is unlikely to be able to restart until July because of restrictions in place in the country during the pandemic.
Domestic leagues also have been warned by UEFA not to abandon competitions yet due the coronavirus pandemic. Doing so, European soccer’s governing body has said, could see teams blocked from qualifying for the Champions League and Europa League as they are determined based on final positions in domestic standings.
"This was a highly unusual end to the season, to say the least, and not the one any of us would have preferred," SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan said in a statement. "With the turmoil and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, there was always going to be a highly-charged and passionate debate about how we secure the future of Scottish football. It is no exaggeration to say that this was an existential matter for Scottish clubs, with many of them telling us they were at real risk of going under unless the situation was resolved very quickly, so I’m pleased that the game has moved decisively."
Passing the resolution means end-of-season payments can now be sent to clubs in the three lower divisions "by the end of this week," the SPFL said.