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CELTIC’S TITLE? SPFL EDGING TOWARDS MAKE-YOUR-MIND-UP TIME

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THE announcement from UEFA yesterday has paved the way for the SPFL to call a halt to the Premiership season.

Inevitably, that would lead to Celtic, 13 points ahead with eight games to go, being awarded their ninth successive crown in these unprecedented times.

However, Europe’s ruling soccer body have also made it clear their preferred option would be to see all domestic campaigns to be completed, despite the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Belgian Pro League was the first major European league to propose cancelling their programme, but a decision by their general assembly has been delayed until UEFA announce their guidelines which could be made known tomorrow after a meeting of the executive.

Associations are aware that proceeding without UEFA’s permission risks their clubs being banned from qualifying for next season’s Champions League and Europa League.

EIGHTSOME REEL…Scott Brown leads the Celtic title celebrations back in May. Now the Hoops are waiting to hear if they will awarded a ninth successive crown.

Europe’s chiefs have said they will produce guidelines for associations who want to end their seasons early, but have strongly recommended that Europe’s top leagues play to a finish.

It is understood that no league which has qualification to the two money-spinning competitions asked UEFA for permission to end their campaigns early during yesterday’s conference call, but that does NOT automatically mean associations and clubs don’t want to call it now.

Following the UEFA meeting, the Dutch chiefs revealed they are not intending to continue the 2019/20 season after a government ban on events was extended until September 1.

The KNVB had planned to resume the suspended programme for the top two divisions on June 19, behind closed doors.

But the announcement of a three-month extension to the government ban means the season will be forced to shutdown.

All major public events, including professional sports and music festivals, are prohibited until the start of September, at least.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “It’s better to be cautious now than to have regrets later.

“I would love to say we could go a lot further. But that is very scary and dangerous. We see a little improvement in the data, but just imagine that we would relax some measures, causing the virus to peak again. That’s something we all absolutely don’t want.”

A subsequent statement from the KNVB said: “No professional football can be played, even without an audience, until September 1.

“As a result, the board of professional football intends not to continue playing the 2019-20 league.”

Ajax currently lead the Eredivisie on goal difference from AZ Alkmaar and the Dutch bosses added: “Based on the government’s decision today, the KNVB will consult with UEFA after which a decision will be confirmed.

“On Friday, the clubs and other parties involved will meet to discuss the consequences.”

SHOUTING THE ODDS…Steven Gerrard has plenty to think about.

UEFA, after being enraged by the Belgians’ decision to end early and hand the title to Club Brugge, have softened their tone.

A statement read: “There was a strong recommendation given to finish domestic top division and cup competitions, but some special cases will be heard once guidelines concerning participation to European competitions – in case of a cancelled league – have been developed.”

The SPFL took the decision a week ago to call a premature halt to the Championship, League One and League Two and award the championships to Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers with Partick Thistle and Stranraer being relegates from their respective decisions.

However, the Hampden chiefs are in an unusual situation with Rangers still in the Europa League and with a second-leg last-16 tie to be completed against Bayer Leverkusen, who are 3-1 ahead from last month’s first game at Ibrox.

To complete the tie, the Scots need their current Europa League squad, which was registered all the way back in January. If the Premiership ends early, player registrations and contracts will expire on June 30 – they would not be covered under the FIFA contract extension rule – and the transfer window would be expected to operate as normal.

Steven Gerrard faces losing face losing loan players such as Ianis Hagi, Sheyi Ojo and Florian Kamberi while the likes of Andy Halliday and Wes Foderingham will be out of contract.

With this scenario, to play the return in Germany, it would require the Govan outfit to operate in two separate seasons – something UEFA are very unlikely to support.

FIFA have recommended that associations come up with their own plans on how to extend contracts, to help leagues and clubs complete their remaining fixtures.

If the Premiership season resumes, Gers can use the rule to negotiate extensions for the players to ensure their availability in domestic and European competition.

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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