SPFL to name Celtic Provisional Champions, but our day will come, the Rangers cash plea

In uncertain times you need strong leadership and today the SPFL showed a level of authority that should be commended. Not everyone will be in agreement and there will be hard luck stories possibly alongside inevitable litigation but this was never a time where you could please all of the people all of the time.

If nothing else today’s decision brings clarity where chaos reigned and an opportunity for Scottish football to plan ahead with a degree of certainty. It will also now result in Celtic being crowned as Champions of Scotland for a ninth successive year and remove the spectre of a null and void season entirely. The Celtic Star has for several weeks been predicting this outcome, calling Celtic The Provisional Champions.

First up The SPFL have released a statement today confirming member clubs are to vote on a:

“resolution recommending the termination of the 2019/20 season in the Ladbrokes Championship, Ladbrokes League 1 and Ladbrokes League 2, with final season placings determined by points per game in league matches played to date by each club”

You can see the statement in full HERE.

In short the 42 member clubs will be asked to approve the following resolution.

* The immediate termination of Season 2019/20 for the Ladbrokes Championship, League 1 and League 2, without the remaining fixtures in the League being played;

* All play-off competitions being cancelled; and

* Final season placings to be determined by the number of points per game earned by each club in the matches they have played. This would result in the following final divisional tables for Season 2019/20 in the Ladbrokes Championship, League 1 and League 2:

This would of course mean promotions for Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers but also see Partick Thistle and Stranraer relegated, however the SPFL did leave hope that there could be league reconstruction ahead of next season as long as the resolutions are supported in full:

“If the resolution is approved, the SPFL has also committed to consulting with Clubs over the possibility of League restructuring ahead of Season 2020/21”.

An awkward situation for SPFL bosses has therefore been met with a solution to match the difficulty of the predicament faced. The Celtic Star has always argued, even though we don’t have much time for them or their supporters, that it would be unfair to relegate Hearts.

So what becomes of the Scottish Premiership season? Perhaps with Ceferin’s threats from UEFA not to end the season without UEFA ratification, there has been a slightly different tactic taken in comparison to the rest of the domestic leagues. The SPL have stated in the case of the top league that:

“The resolution also recommends that matches in the Ladbrokes Premiership remain postponed for the time being, to give the best possible opportunity for the remaining 2019/20 fixtures to be played.

However, if the SPFL Board determines that the remaining Premiership matches cannot be played, the Ladbrokes Premiership would also be terminated, with final season placings determined on the same basis.”

Granted there have been no dates confirmed in this statement but what is clear that in the likely event that the league is unable to be concluded on the field of play then a line will be drawn in the sand.

Effectively the SPFL are putting UEFA on notice. They are saying they will bow to their demands to try and finish the top flight campaign as requested, therefore supplying the names for Champions League and UEFA Cup tournaments by traditional means, however to protect the interests of their clubs they will pull the plug and decide the league, European slots and relegation on current standings if that cannot be achieved. I’m certain over the next few days there will be further dialogue with UEFA as I’m sure there was prior to this resolution being put to the 42 clubs for approval.

There will also be an almighty fallout and in depth debate to follow this resolution. Hearts and ‘the’ Rangers are very likely to respond robustly in public and possibly via legal routes, should their previous utterances on the league ending in this way be believed.

For Celtic it is exactly what they have lobbied for, an opportunity to conclude the title by concluding their fixtures or in the event of this not being possible the SPFL’s own rules are implemented and the league trophy is awarded to the provisional champions.

Therefore 9-in-a-row is all but confirmed bar the shouting and my word we should expect a lot of shouting.

This solution is far from ideal but it mirrors the difficulty of the predicament the SPFL faced. The governing body is often decried for abdicating responsibility, in this case they have delivered a solution that may well save Scottish football clubs in the bottom three leagues whilst also protecting – for the time being at least – our responsibilities to remain in open dialogue with UEFA.

SPFL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster has stated today: “As a Board, we have consulted extensively with clubs in all four divisions since football was suspended on 13 March and have taken expert legal and commercial advice.

“Now is the right time to act. Very regrettably, we must face the reality that it’s simply not possible for the remaining Ladbrokes Championship, League 1 and League 2 fixtures to remain postponed without causing significant further financial harm to clubs in those divisions. Further, many of our clubs are experiencing very challenging organisational and financial circumstances.

“Everyone in our game and in the country generally, is wrestling with the devastating impact of Covid-19. They all know there are no easy answers or simple solutions, but the Board’s recommended proposal will give us a far greater degree of certainty, minimise the harm to the game overall, and enable us make end-of-season fee payments now to Ladbrokes Championship, League 1 and League 2 clubs.

“The position for the Ladbrokes Premiership remains particularly complicated. Everyone is aware of UEFA’s desire for the family of European football to work together to resolve the issues that confront us all. We are keen to work with UEFA and remain in discussion with them over the situation in Scotland.

“The quicker we reach a final position the better, but there is no doubt this is the most complicated and challenging situation our game has faced in living memory.”

For Peter Lawwell and Celtic there should also be a congratulations for lobbying strongly against the ludicrous notion that Null and Void could be in anyway a sensible solution. Lawwell and the club should also be commended for ensuring Celtic receive the fairest outcome.

Neil Lennon and the Celtic players unbeaten run since January has put the club 13 points clear and in a position to be called the provisional league champions.

Should the SPFL resolution be approved, it may just be that Peter Lawwell’s negotiation and diplomacy skills have applied the finishing touch to 9-In-a-Row. Who would have thought that four weeks ago? We live in strange times indeed.

Niall J

A plea for money to be released from those most in need…

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About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parhead's gates.

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