SPFL defends postponement policy

The Scottish Professional Football League has responded to criticism of its postponement policy by insisting that sporting fairness could be undermined if it failed to administer the rules as agreed.

League bosses also warned that more clubs would have to play with makeshift squads if the season was to be completed.

Dundee boss James McPake accused the SPFL decision-makers of putting players and families from both his club and Aberdeen at risk by refusing a request to postpone their Boxing Day trip to Pittodrie.

James McPake was unimpressed by the attitude towards Dundee strike Leigh Griffiths

Dundee boss James McPake accused the SPFL decision-makers of putting players and families

Dundee only had four substitutes stripped – two goalkeepers, one 17-year-old and 40-year-old assistant manager Dave Mackay, who was registered as a player after the club lost six players to Covid-19 issues on the morning of the game.

St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin recommended to his board that they refuse to play against Celtic last week after the club failed to get two matches postponed.

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Jim Goodwin says the SPFL put St Mirren and Celtic players at risk by forcing the Scottish Premiership game on Wednesday to go ahead despite his side suffering a Covid-19 outbreak.

His chairman John Needham later called for a “judicious application of the rules” to take account of new self-isolation rules affecting household contacts.

However, SPFL director of operations Calum Beattie pointed out that the policy for postponing games was finalised after consultation with clubs and “provides certainty and consistency on the criteria”.

Beattie added: “The SPFL has repeatedly demonstrated that we will postpone matches when the criteria is met – with 10 league matches this season postponed already.

“While we have enormous sympathies for any club which is unable to field its strongest team as a result of Covid-19, those calling for the policy to be changed midway through the season may not have considered the wider implications.

“Failure to administer the policy consistently could lead to clubs choosing not to fulfil specific fixtures, which would have massive implications for sporting fairness, increase pressure on other clubs and threaten the ability to complete the season.

“It is an essential cornerstone of the game that scheduled fixtures must be played when teams fulfil the necessary criteria.

“Failure to do so would undermine the integrity of the league, threaten completion of the season and would certainly cause far more problems than it would solve.”

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Highlights of the Scottish Premiership clash between Aberdeen and Dundee.

The Premiership winter break was brought forward because of limits on attendances but the three lower leagues are continuing as scheduled.

Beattie added: “Scottish football continues to operate in an extremely challenging and uncertain environment. This will undoubtedly mean that there are clubs most weeks who are struggling to fulfil fixtures.

“Already this season, we have seen many clubs complete fixtures with large numbers of players unavailable and we are grateful for the understanding and flexibility of those clubs, players and fans as they adapt to the challenges of Covid.

“If we are to complete the season as scheduled, clubs playing when their playing resources are stretched is, very regrettably, going to be a necessity.”

Beattie added that the SPFL liaises closely with the Scottish football authorities’ Joint Response Group and the Scottish Government’s Elite Sport Clinical Advisory Group when considering postponement requests.

The policy states that clubs, if they are to succeed with a postponement request, must have fewer than 13 available players.

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SPFL CEO Neil Doncaster discusses why the winter break was brought forward, the financial support needed from the Government and why no more games can be postponed in January.

Clubs must have at least one goalkeeper and 10 outfield players, and at least 10 players must be aged 18 years or over, if they are made to play.

Within two hours of the SPFL’s statement, the league announced that the New Year Ayrshire derby had been postponed at the request of Kilmarnock and Ayr. The fixture has been moved from January 2 to February 9 to give more supporters the chance to attend.

Killie had earlier called for a three-week shutdown in light of newly-introduced limits of 500 on attendances but were outvoted by other Championship clubs.

United revealed they had agreed to the request “after some negotiation to ensure a strong representation of Ayr supporters in attendance, subject to any restrictions at the time”.