The Scottish football authorities still hope to complete the season despite Government measures to slow the spread of coronavirus being escalated significantly.
Scottish football’s Joint Response Group will continue to meet daily to discuss “all possible options for the remaining season and beyond”.
The Scottish Professional Football League has postponed all fixtures until advised otherwise by the Scottish Football Association and Government, removing some uncertainty after Livingston manager Gary Holt stated he would have to prepare for a game this Saturday just in case.
A hiatus lasting several months looks increasingly likely, especially as the SFA has, on the back of medical advice, recommended that no group training or fitness sessions take place at “all levels of the game”.
The SPFL Board has today postponed the playing of @Ladbrokes Ladbrokes League fixtures pending any Government order and/or further direction from the @ScottishFA.
See full statement 👇https://t.co/hDImXvnlOX pic.twitter.com/opecAN9bO7
— SPFL (@spfl) March 16, 2020
With a date for returning to action impossible to set, the SPFL faces a similarly challenging task in deciding the future of its current and subsequent campaigns, and several clubs have already warned they will oppose any attempt to decide final standings early.
Hearts owner Ann Budge has threatened legal action should her club be relegated with eight matches left and Rangers have now declared they will strongly oppose any move to declare Celtic champions.
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “The significant challenges being faced by people all over the country have put sport firmly in perspective.
“However, we have a responsibility to deal with the many difficult issues caused by this outbreak and are working hard with the Scottish FA, with our clubs, and with Government departments to arrive at the best possible outcome for our game.
Neil Doncaster faces a hugely challenging task (PA)
“We are very conscious of the desire of all 42 Ladbrokes SPFL clubs and their fans to know, as soon as possible, of our plans for the league, but everyone recognises we are facing what is arguably the most challenging time in our sport’s history.
“There are undoubtedly going to be further challenges ahead, but everyone involved is pulling together as one and we will continue to make decisions in the very best interests of the game as a whole.”
The Joint Response Group, which includes SFA and SPFL representatives and medical experts, insists the suspension of football will only be lifted when it is safe to do so for all stakeholders including fans, players, match officials and other staff.
A statement added: “The preference remains that season 2019/20 will be played to completion.
🏆 Ladbrokes Premiership table pic.twitter.com/Mlm39u9ZO3
— SPFL (@spfl) March 11, 2020
“However, Scottish football has been suspended until further notice and the Joint Response Group will continue to discuss the developments regarding the virus on a daily basis.
“The Joint Response Group is engaged in a contingency planning phase that will assess all possible options for the remaining season and beyond.
“It would be inappropriate and unhelpful to speculate on any future decisions to be taken by competition organisers.
“We will, however, commit to updating clubs, supporters and other key stakeholders when appropriate in this fast-moving landscape.”
The league hopes to issue scheduled payments to clubs in April.
The statement said: “The Scottish FA and SPFL are currently reviewing all their commercial contracts to understand the fibioreportscial implications of the disruption so far.
“The SPFL advances club fees across the season. The next such payment is due to be made in April. It remains the intention of the SPFL board to make April’s scheduled payment to clubs.
“Likewise, the Scottish FA is investigating ways in which support can be established in respect of advanced payment of distribution moneys and other ways in which we can help minimise the burden for members, where practicable.”
Scotland’s Euro 2020 play-off against Israel on March 26 is certain to be postponed following Tuesday’s conference call between UEFA officials and member associations, and the SFA expects to discover information about the finals too, which will partly be held at Hampden.
The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals are also likely to be called off following that meeting.