The Joint Response Group continues to meet daily. Earlier today, a UEFA videoconference call involving all 55 National Associations – including the Scottish FA’s President, Rod Petrie, and Chief Executive, Ian Maxwell – took place, where it was confirmed by UEFA that EURO 2020 will be postponed until next year, from 11 June to 11 July 2021.
Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA Chief Executive: “As well as the agreement to postpone EURO 2020 until next year, we also received indications that our UEFA Nations League Play-Off semi-final against Israel at Hampden Park, due to be played on 26 March, is now scheduled to take place in early June, with no date as yet confirmed.
“While we await more specific information from UEFA in relation to the fixture, there is a limit to how we prepare for a June match in the context of the coronavirus pandemic and the most recent government and UK Chief Medical Officers advice.
“I would like to reassure all Scotland fans who have purchased either tickets or hospitality packages for the match against Israel that those tickets will still be valid for the rescheduled fixture, when the date is confirmed. If supporters are unable to attend the rescheduled fixture then the face value of their tickets and packages will be refunded. Further information on tickets will be communicated to existing buyers in early course.
“At this juncture it is also important to confirm that the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final ties between Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian, and Celtic and Aberdeen, will not be played on the original dates – 11 and 12 April – nor will the final be played on 9 May. Given the fast-moving nature of this unprecedented situation, and the imperative to safeguard public health, we will consider future dates for the cup ties when the situation becomes clearer. We are, however, committed to completing the competition at the appropriate time, in front of spectators, and will base any decision on government and UK Medical Officers advice, and the readiness of the participants to complete the ties.
“We also await further information from the UEFA Working Group on the next steps for all other club and international fixtures which have been suspended until further notice, including Scotland Women’s National Team and national youth teams.”
Following requests for information from members and clubs, please find below rolling FAQs to inform key stakeholders of developments.
FAQs will reflect updated guidance from the football authorities and the information issued by Scottish and UK Government in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
- Why was the decision taken to suspend Scottish football matches?
The decision was taken in the interest of public health and in the light of both Scottish and UK Government announcements as the country entered the ‘delay’ phase of the global coronavirus pandemic. After extensive follow-up discussions between the football authorities, the Scottish government and football bodies in England and abroad, it was decided by the board of the Scottish FA that suspension until further notice was the only course of action that could protect public health whilst providing clarity for the game in line with UK Medical Officer’s advice. The decision protects not just the general public but specifically supporters, players, club personnel, match officials and everyone involved in putting on match day events. It also reduces the burden on medical staff and the emergency services at a time when they are required to respond to the pandemic.
- Is there a possibility that this season will be cancelled completely?
The preference remains that Season 2019/20 will be played to completion. 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 Scottish FA will take guidance from governments, the UK Chief Medical Officers, the Scottish FA medical consultant, Dr John MacLean, and information provided by the World Health Organisation. Given the ever-changing landscape of the virus in Scotland – as with countries across the world – the Scottish FA will only lift the suspension when it is deemed safe to do so from the perspective of public health, but also the safety of all stakeholders including supporters, players, match officials and staff.
- Why couldn’t SPFL matches be played behind closed doors/televised, where practical?
This was one of the options considered and an approach that has been adopted in various countries. However, it was the unanimous view of the Scottish FA Board that this approach could compromise the health and safety of other key stakeholders, not least players, match officials and staff, as well as necessitating the attendance of emergency services and medical staff.
- What are the implications for championships, promotions and relegation?
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.
- Why have grassroots football matches been postponed when fewer than 500 people attend these matches anyway?
The Board of the Scottish FA felt it appropriate to provide clear instructions to the non-professional and grassroots games when a decision was made to suspend senior professional football. To reiterate, this decision was taken based on public health, the commitments of emergency and medical services, and also on the safety of those involved in the game, which applies from senior professional football to the lowest grassroots ages. This decision is also designed to protect the volunteer network that supports the grassroots game, in line with UK Chief Medical Officer’s advice.
- Does your advice include preventing training at professional and grassroots level?
Each club, regardless of whether professional or recreational, has the responsibility to make decisions that keep its players, coaches, support staff and other employees safe. PFA Scotland has issued its own guidance to players and we are committed to supporting our members with individual advice.
Having taken medical advice, the Scottish FA Board recommends that no training or conditioning in groups should take place for the time being. This recommendation covers all levels of the game. Further updates on this will be given as and when further medical advice is received.
- What will the Scottish FA/SPFL be doing to support clubs who may experience financial difficulties as a result?
The Scottish FA and SPFL are currently reviewing all their commercial contracts to understand the financial 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.
As per an earlier Joint Response Group Update, the SPFL and the Scottish FA strongly advise clubs at all levels to review their insurance policies.
- What will be the impact of the UEFA Nations League Play-Offs being postponed or cancelled?
We await the outcome of the videoconference to be hosted by UEFA’s Executive Committee with representative from 55 countries, the Board of the European Clubs Association and representatives from the European Leagues, the ECA and FIFPro on 17 March. We will update supporters – especially those who have purchased tickets for the match at Hampden Park against Israel – when we have a decision on whether the match will go ahead as scheduled on 26 March. We expect to receive information on UEFA Euro 2020 on this call and will update accordingly afterwards.
- Will the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals and final go ahead as planned?
The semi-finals were due to be played on the weekend of 11 and 12 April with the final scheduled for 9 May. These will now be postponed. We will continue to monitor government and UK Chief Medical Officer advice in the coming days and weeks, in liaison with the participants, sponsors and broadcasters. We will ensure any decision regarding new dates is made with public health, the commitments of emergency services and medical staff, and safety at the forefront of our minds. We will also ensure that clubs have ample notice to prepare for the ties and the sale of tickets.
- What is the latest Government advice?
On 16 March, the UK Government updated its position on the efforts required to attempt to delay the spread of the virus and reduce the pandemic’s peak. The updated advice includes that:
- Anyone with symptoms should stay at home for at least seven days; and
- Everyone in the UK should now avoid non-essential travel and contact with others, work from home where possible and that mass gatherings would no longer receive the support of the emergency services
General advice for employers can be found at:
This advice will continue to be updated on a regular basis, so please ensure you are reading the most up to date release from government.
- Will the Scottish FA and SPFL offices at Hampden Park remain open?
The offices of the Scottish FA and SPFL at Hampden Park remain open at present, although some staff have already been advised to work from home with immediate effect. This will continue to be reviewed on a daily basis.
Subject to them remaining well, all Scottish FA and SPFL staff remain available to serve member clubs and are contactable by email and mobile telephone.
- Should we close our club premises?
The Prime Minister stated on 16 March that he needed people to work from home if they possibly could. It is a matter for individual clubs to determine whether, during this period, they close their club premises. If you do decide to do so, please contact the Scottish FA and SPFL to let us know your club’s contact details during such period, in the event that they are different from the email addresses and mobile numbers already held for you.
- Should we continue to treat injured players?
We understand the need to make sure that all your staff are fit and healthy. Decisions on treating injured players should be risk assessed on a case by case basis in line with Government recommendations on personal contact.
- What support for employers is available?
UK Government has announced that it will support small and medium-sized businesses and employers to cope with the extra costs of paying coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay by refunding eligible SSP costs. Employers with fewer than 250 employees appear to be eligible.
The Government will launch a new, temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government has indicated that it will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per lender cap on claims).
To assist businesses in financial distress, HMRC has set up a dedicated coronavirus helpline to help those in need, and they may be able to agree a bespoke Time To Pay arrangement.
The Government has already announced that the Business Rates retail discount will be increased to 50% in 2020/21. To support small businesses affected by coronavirus, the Government is increasing it further to 100% for 2020/21. The relief will also be expanded to the leisure and hospitality sectors.