Coronavirus

The Season Has Been Suspended – What Happens Next?

Following the announcement this morning, we are in an unprecedented position that the league has been suspended until further notice due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

So what happens next?

The Scottish Government announced yesterday, that events of more than 500 people should be cancelled in order to limit the spread of the virus and ease the burden on the emergency services as we head into to the peak period of the coronavirus outbreak.

To date it has affected 85 people in Scotland, with 798 confirmed cases in the United Kingdom and over 138,000 people worldwide.

Up until this morning it was expected that this weekend’s games including our match tonight against Motherwell would go ahead.

This escalated fairly quickly after the English Premiership and English Football League announced a postponement of fixtures until at least 3 April 2020.

UEFA have also taken the decision to postpone all games due to be played next week in the UEFA Champions and Europa Leagues.

The SPFL and Scottish FA then subsequently followed suit.  SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said it was “neither realistic nor possible” to continue with games so when will the season recommence, if it does at all?

The SFA and SPFL have indicated that the suspension will initially cover this weekend’s games and the following midweek fixtures and further discussions will take place with Governments and UEFA on any possible further suspension beyond that.

However, any resumption of matches will depend on how the illness escalates.  It would be expected given that we are three to four weeks behind the European spread of the virus, that the suspension may continue until late April.

The UK is currently entering a “delay phase”, which aims to lower the peak impact of the virus and push it away into the summer – to relieve pressure on the NHS from season pressures such as seasonal flu.

Football matches put extra demands on the police and medical services, who at the moment are already under pressure.

UPDATE 17 MARCH 2020:

UEFA, the European Club Association, European Leagues and FIFPRO Europe today signed a joint resolution on the principles of a contingency plan regarding the 2019-20 season.

The principles include details on the completion of national team and club competitions.

The resolution features a commitment to complete all domestic and European club competitions by the end of the current sporting season, i.e. 30 June 2020 at the latest, should the situation improve and resuming playing be appropriate and prudent enough.

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.

Nothing has been decided yet, and the SPFL have yet to comment on what might happen should they not be able to fulfil the fixtures.

Possibilities could be:

  • ending the league as it stands currently;
  • voiding the league for the current season;
  • continue playing into the summer;

The idea of playing behind closed doors was ruled out due to the unavailability of emergency service provision.

It is expected the SFA and SPFL will detail what will happen if the suspension is going to be longer than originally anticipated.

UPDATE 17 MARCH 2020:

UEFA, the European Club Association, European Leagues and FIFPRO Europe today signed a joint resolution on the principles of a contingency plan regarding the 2019-20 season.

The principles include details on the completion of national team and club competitions.

The resolution features a commitment to complete all domestic and European club competitions by the end of the current sporting season, i.e. 30 June 2020 at the latest, should the situation improve and resuming playing be appropriate and prudent enough.

It could be a rocky road ahead for some clubs, especially where club finances are tight.

Scottish football relies on the gate receipts for a substantial part of their income.  In 2018, this made up 43% of the top flight’s revenue.

Aberdeen chairman, Dave Cormack said: “What I will say is that Aberdeen are in a fortunate position financially.

“But clearly if this were to go on for six to 12 months you get into a different kettle of fish.

“I don’t know the finances of other clubs but speaking for Aberdeen we have no debt and we have cash.”

The SPFL warned earlier this week that there was no cash reserves to help clubs out in the event of matches taking place without spectators.

There will be pressure in the boardrooms of Scottish football should there be an elongated suspension of the league.

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.

UPDATE 17 MARCH 2020:

Following a UEFA meeting today, there is a commitment to complete all domestic and European club competitions by the end of the current sporting season, i.e. 30 June 2020 at the latest, should the situation improve and resuming playing be appropriate and prudent enough.

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.

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 Board of the Scottish FA felt it appropriate to provide clear instructions to the nonprofessional 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.

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.

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.

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.

The semi-finals are due to be played on the weekend of 11 and 12 April 2020 with the final scheduled for 9 May 2020. 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 make contingency plans in the event that the suspension remains in place by then and ensure any decision 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.

Clearly for football supporters, the suspension of the league is a huge disappointment, but the suspension has been done in the best interests of supporters, clubs and public health.

Currently there has been no announcement from the SPFL about whether there will be any refund for season ticket holders or anyone that has purchased tickets for individual matches.

As it stands, the hope would be that the season will restarted and the full fixture schedule be completed, and that any tickets will be honoured for rescheduled matches.

The advice would be hold onto any tickets until a new date for matches is announced.

If you bought a ticket for a cancelled match from the club, you should be entitled to refund if it comes to that.

However, additional costs such as postage and booking fees, are unlikely to be reimbursed.

If any of our matches have been rescheduled and you cannot make the rearranged date, you should also be entitled to your money back.

It will be unlikely any refunds will be given to supporters that have purchased rail or bus tickets to matches that have been cancelled.  You would need to follow this up with the travel operator.

Should the league restart, but you decide against going to a match because you’re worried about coronavirus, there is little chance of you getting your money back.

The Club are already taking measures to protect the First Team and user groups at Cormack Park.

All Aberdeen FC Community Trust, Youth Academy and AFC Women’s activities will be suspended until Sunday 22 March (inclusive) and the Club will review the situation thereafter.

Aberdeen FC Chairman, Dave Cormack, told the club website: “We’re obviously hugely disappointed that tonight’s game has been postponed but applaud the decision by the SFA and the SPFL. They were left with no option and, despite being a difficult decision, it is one that is in the best interests of the fans, players, officials and the general public.

“It’s now up to the Government to make their position very clear on what is a continually and rapidly evolving situation.”

The Club has already implemented a number of proactive processes across the stadium and training ground aimed at minimising risks associated with Covid-19. This includes the temporary cancellation of all planned player appearances and venue tours whilst also asking players to avoid interactions such as providing photographs or autographs for the time being.

The best thing is regular and thorough hand washing, preferably with soap and water.

Coronavirus spreads when an infected person coughs small droplets – packed with the virus – into the air. These can be breathed in, or cause an infection if you touch a surface they have landed on then your eyes, nose or mouth.

So, coughing and sneezing into tissues, not touching your face with unwashed hands, and avoiding close contact with infected people are important for limiting the spread.

Face masks do not provide effective protection, according to medical experts.

What should I do to prevent catching and spreading the virus?

The NHS says an epidemic in the UK is “likely”.

Patients with mild symptoms are being asked to self-isolate at home. Community teams will keep an eye on them if need be.

In Scotland, check NHS inform, then ring your GP in office hours, or 111 out-of-hours.

If you have come into contact with somebody who may be infected, you may be told to self-isolate. People needing to do so should take “common-sense” steps to avoid close contact with other people.

Advice for people who think they may have coronavirus

We will update this page as we find out more information.  This page was last update on Monday 16 March 2020.

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