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LOCKDOWN: NO PROMISES, NO RISKS AS DISCUSSIONS CONTINUE

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THE SPFL has set up a number of committees to work on the potential return of top-flight football.

However, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that no-one can be certain if even closed-doors games are viable.

The Hampden chiefs’ resolution to immediately close down the Championship, League One and League Two was carried following the belated ballot from Dundee in midweek.

Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers were confirmed as champions of their respective divisions with Partick Thistle and Stranraer relegated.

Celtic, with a 13-point advantage and only eight games to play, are in line to pick up their ninth successive crown – if the campaign is brought to a premature halt.

Scotland’s football rulers left open the possibility of a return for the Premiership to try and finish off the term while insisting that would not be allowed until June 10 at the very earliest.

The SPFL reaffirmed that date in a statement yesterday, saying: “The Joint Response Group understands that appropriate planning for the resumption of football in Scotland is vitally important. Restarting the game in an orderly fashion will be complex and will likely be done in line with ongoing restrictions by governments and UK Chief Medical Officer advice, even after the relaxation of lockdown.

“A proper planning framework is essential to ensure the game is ready to return at the appropriate time, with necessary systems and infrastructure in place.”

To help smooth the return, five committees have been set up with key members of SPFL staff put in charge; John McLean will chair the medical advice group, Mike Mulraney and Ian Maxwell will look after supporter welfare and club operations, welfare and players, Neil Doncaster will concentrate on broadcasting and Calum Beattie is in charge of regulation including competition rules.

SFA president Rod Petrie said: “We want to make sure that we continue to support the nationwide effort to overcome Covid-19, but we also need to start planning for the restart of the game, at the right time and with the health and safety of paramount importance.”

Whatever plans the SPFL come up with, it would appear large-scale public gatherings are unlikely to be allowed for the foreseeable future and First Minister Sturgeon is concerned games being played would mean people getting together even if they occur in empty stadiums.

She said: “In terms of playing behind closed doors, clearly there are issues there in terms of – does that completely take away the risk of big events?

“If a match is being played behind closed doors, but it is still on television, the danger then is people will still congregate together in groups to watch that.

“These things all have to be very carefully considered and what I will say is that they will be very carefully considered and we will share as much of that consideration as we can.”

Sturgeon also confirmed the prospect of football matches being played in front of fans is a long way off.

She added: “People should not be under the expectation that large-scale mass gatherings will be starting any time soon. We must make sure that we continue to do everything we can to suppress this virus.

“As we lift restrictions we need to continue the understanding that some form of social distancing is going to be required, perhaps up to the point that a vaccine is available.

“We want to get a semblance of normality back into people’s lives, but we cannot do that in a way that risks a resurgence of this virus.

“It would be wrong for me to give false expectation right now about an early resumption of football matches or rugby matches or large scale sporting events.”

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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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