How what happened in Chile last season could shape coronavirus future for Scottish football

The Chilean football season was cancelled early after riots in the country

The SPFL and Scottish FA’s decision to postpone football in the country “until further notice” has largely been welcomed by fans and pundits.

The joint working group which had been set up between the organisations entered talks on Friday to discuss the next step with the coronavirus outbreak constantly developing.

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Despite confirming on Thursday that this weekend’s games will be going ahead, the decision was taken to postpone matches across Scotland at all levels with immediate effect.

Coronavirus has put the football season in jeopardy. Picture: SNS

It has led to speculation as to what the next steps are with regards to the remaining fixtures, league titles and promotion and relegation.

Uefa are meeting on Tuesday to discuss future plans for European competitions as well as Euro 2020.

While not on the table at this current point, with the severity of coronavirus spreading it is not unrealistic to think the season as a whole could get cancelled if the situation worsens.

Reports in Germany suggest discussions have already taken place as to the next steps if that is the case with speculation that there will be no Bundesliga champion with four teams moving up from 2.Bundlesiga into an expanded 22-team division for next season.

Chilean protests saw the league season cancelled before its conclusion. Picture: Getty

There is, however, recent precedent of a top-flight division being cancelled.

Chile 2019

Only four months ago the 2019 Chilean Primera Division finished early due to anti-government protests.

Why?

Demonstrations began in October as students took to the streets to protest against an increase in subway fares. It soon became a much larger situation as thousands began to revolt against inequality. Reforms were demanded for everything from health care to education to pensions.

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Protests turned into riots across the country with Chile’s president Sebastian Pinera declaring a state of emergency and claiming the country was “at war”.

As violence broke out football was suspended due to emergency services, namely the police, being stretched.

When deciding to postpone matches, the ANFP, the SPFL equivalent in Chile, said they couldn’t “guarantee the protection of order and public safety in and around the stadiums."

Cancelled

The decision was taken at the end of November to end the season early as the situation worsened.

Due to the nature of the security fears, the Council of Presidents of Chilean professional football clubs opted to finish the season despite six rounds still to be played.

In a statement the organisation said: "The Council of Presidents of Chilean professional football association approved on Friday with 42 votes of a possible 48, to end the 2019 season in the Primera Division, Primera B and Segunda Division owing to circumstances beyond our control."

Historic measures

It was the first time in the 86-year-old history of Chile’s professional leagues that they weren’t played to a conclusion.

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It becomes even more significant when you consider that the league continued to play on even during the infamous 1973 coup d'état which saw Augusto Pinochet overthrow Salvador Allende’s government.

Did anyone win the league?

At the time of the cancellation 12 of the 16 teams in the league had played 24 games with the other four on 25.

Universidad Catolica were awarded the league title. The Santiago team were leading the league by 13 points, ahead of rivals Colo Colo, with 18 points to play for.

As per the BBC, the team’s opponents agreed to Los Cruzados being handed the 14th league title of their history. Curiously, Catolica’s president Juan Tagle voted against ending the season early.

What about relegation and promotion?

It was agreed that there would be no teams dropping out the league and no teams coming up from the second tier.

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According to ESPN, a proposal to see the first and second tiers merge was rejected.

The decision to have no relegation or promotion was significant. It meant that one of the country’s biggest club Universidad de Chile escaped the threat of the drop. They sat 15th, one point off the bottom of the table.

Meanwhile, Santiago Wanderers from Valparaiso were denied the chance to return to the top-flight despite holding a three-point lead in the second tier with three games left.

What was said:

Universidad Catolica president Tagle told the club's website: "It's not the way we would have wanted to win the title but I hope everyone recognises that we are the legitimate champions. The gap that we had was the biggest ever taken by a team in long tournaments were three points were awarded per game. There is a bittersweet feeling. Without a doubt it's a sad day for Chilean football to have had to end the tournament like this.”

Santiago Wanderers released a statement which read: “As an institution, we feel deeply disadvantaged with the decision of the ANFP and the Council of Presidents, so we reserve the right to go to the sports justice agencies that are necessary so that what we have achieved on the field is respected.

“The difference in criteria on the part of the Council of Presidents and the Chilean National Football Association seems serious and scandalous, as they did respect the merits of the top division leader, in addition to the teams that will play international cups given their respective positions in the table, criteria that was not used with Santiago Wanderers, being the club that saw its legitimate sports interests harmed the most.”

What happened next?

The ANFP approved an increase to the top flight, which saw the number of teams go from 16 to 18 with Santiago Wanderers and Deportes La Serena being promoted.

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La Serena won a promotion play-off which took place in January.

The 2020 Chilean Primera Division is now underway with teams having played five, six or seven matches. Universidad Catolica lead the way, while both promoted sides are bottom.