Borders football clubs out of action until next month at earliest
An ongoing rise in coronavirus cases has prompted the Scottish Football Association to call off all games other than Premiership and Championship matches for at least the next three weeks.
That means Scottish Lowland Football Leagueclubs such as Gala Fairydean Rovers and Vale of Leithen won’t play again before February.
East of Scotland Football League teams including Hawick Royal Albert United, Peebles Rovers, Coldstream and Eyemouth United will also be out of action.
Football bosses will review the situation on Sunday, January 31.
Options likely to come up for consideration then include scrapping this season for some lower leagues altogether or extending it into the summer.
Scottish Cup ties will also be postponed temporarily, though that doesn’t affect the Borders as its representatives in the competition had already been knocked out.
The SFA’s board agreed to suspend the season for lower league clubs following a meeting last night, January 10, taking into account the Scottish Government’s wish to reduce travel and contact with others whilst safeguarding the commercial broadcasting contracts that sustain the professional game.
Following a meeting with Holyrood’s minister for public health, sport and wellbeing, Angus North and Mearns MSP Mairi Gougeon, it was agreed that all football beneath Championship level be suspended from midnight tonight, January 11.
Other leagues affected include Scottish League One and League Two.
The Premiership will be exempt from the suspension provided it continues to adhere to stringent testing protocols, as will the Championship on the proviso that it commences weekly polymerase chain reaction testing.
SFA president Rod Petrie said: “We are well aware of the efforts all clubs take to comply with the exacting protocols that were conditional on elite football being given an exemption to continue amid the pandemic.
“None the less, the continuation of football at all levels has weighed increasingly heavy on me as president, my colleagues on the board and the joint response group as we have watched the new strain of the virus spread rapidly.
“While the national sport has been afforded the privilege of elite sporting exemption, the risk of mass transportation of untested, largely part-time players is something that cannot be sustained as the cases continue to rise and available hospital beds become increasingly scarce.
“After discussions with the Scottish Professional Football League, the Premiership and Championship will continue on the proviso that both adhere to the existing testing regime.
“The vast majority of teams in those divisions are full-time professional clubs, so the risk of transmission remains manageably low.
“The cost implications for lower-division clubs was one factor but so too was the realisation that many – with some notable exceptions – consist of part-time players who are either prevented from working due to the virus or have to work.
“In either case, the risk is currently too great amid the developing nationwide spread of the virus.
“Much has been said of football’s relationship with the Scottish Government during the pandemic. As president of the SFA and chair of the joint response group, I am grateful for the clinical expertise provided by government specifically to football and for the timely award of £30 million in grant and loan funding for the game.
“We reiterate our commitment to playing our part in the collective effort to eradicate the virus.”