Seven ways to end the Scottish football season

The SPFL board is due to meet on Tuesday
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster.SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster.
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster.

1 Null and void the campaign

Let’s get the non-starter out of the way straight away. This cataclysmic solution curiously has been given plenty of oxygen since the coronavirus pandemic necessitated the season being suspended indefinitely on 13 March. However, it would choke the life out of clubs already struggling to breathe in creating the potential for huge bills over contractual breaches from broadcasters, sponsors and season-ticket holders. SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster could not be party to that, and it isn’t even thought to be on the agenda for the board meeting to discuss the situation . Granted, it would be welcomed by supporters of Rangers – with Celtic being denied the Premiership title to bring up nine-in-a-row – as well as such as relegation-threatened Hearts and Partick Thistle, since they would be instantly spared the drop. Not by their bean counters, though, since it would be fiscally irresponsible.

2 Call the season on current standings and hand titles, promotion and relegation on that basis

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The likeliest outcome since the shutdown was introduced merely because it is the simplest to enact. With three-quarters of the season already played and Celtic 13 points ahead in the Premiership, Dundee United boasting a 14-point lead in the Championship and Cove Rangers holding a 13-point advantage in League Two, it would be a fair outcome for these teams. Not so Hearts and Partick Thistle who could yet have extricated themselves from the bottom of their respective divisions – or such as an in-form Dundee pushing for the Championship play-off. Hearts owner Ann Budge has threatened legal action if the SPFL board dare go down this route.

3 Call the season on current standings and deliver titles but scrap relegation and promotion for a season

This potential scenario has only scant merits. Fair enough, it would award trophies to the clubs topping their respective divisions and, in all but League One, where only one point separates leaders Raith Rovers and second-placed Falkirk, it would simply bring forward practically assured title wins. Yet, if the silverware didn’t come attached to promotion for Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers, their successes would be hollow. At the other end of the scale, though, there is ample justification for an outcome that avoids penalising the clubs propping up the four tiers. A further complication is that Uefa seems decidedly averse to this course of action, threatening to bar countries from its European club competitions. Though what Uefa believes is the way through this otherwise, God only knows, with the pipe-dream of league restarting in June seemingly their only plan.

4 Play the season to a conclusion, whenever

Every one of the 42 clubs would favour this solution above all others in an ideal world. We live in a far from ideal world, though. Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes and Livingston’s Gary Holt were initially strong adopters of this approach. Now they are having to acknowledge that it doesn’t look possible. And, as time passes, nigh on impossible without creating havoc further down the line. There is little prospect of football resuming before July, and there are real fears autumn could bring a second wave of coronavirus cases and a second shutdown. So it could be the case that the two months required for completion of the 2019-20 campaign leave no time in the schedule ahead of the 2021 Euros to fit in another season. The ball could keep running down the hill, and running away from authorities.

5 Call the season and rejig the leagues to allow promotion but remove relegation by moving to three leagues of 14 for one season

This proposal is emerging as the least-worst way out. Gerry Britton is one of those who have petitioned the board to give it serious consideration, with the Partick Thistle chief executive stating the imperative must be to protect as many clubs as possible. Britton has said it need only be temporary. He believes clubs who would lose out on one bumper home gate from Celtic or Rangers if in the bottom six following the split after two rounds of games in the Premiership, would be able to see the bigger picture. With the possibility of disruption for next year because of the pandemic, a mechanism could be put in place to declare the league after 26 games, which may be all an autumn shut-down allows for.

6 Call the season and move to the 14-12-(10-10) reconstruction plan

A document pushing such a radical overhaul was leaked the other week. It is bold, radical and, alas, convoluted, giving with one hand (an exciting play-off end created with eight-club Premierships 1 and 2 formed following two rounds of matches in the top flight and Championship) and taking with the other (regional leagues at the foot of the senior pyramid for clubs that don’t want them, and four more clubs introduced to spread finances even further).

7 Call the season and move to a 16-10-16 set-up

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The loss of two games between Celtic and Rangers might have implications for the television contract. However, a 30-game campaign in the top flight would likely ensure next season would be completed, even if there were further coronavirus suspensions. Moreover, a top flight wherein teams play each other twice with no imbalances caused by splits would lead to the creation of an elite division that, in most surveys, supporters say is precisely what they want to see.