Dundee United and St Johnstone will return to training in June after the Scottish Government greenlit plans to start the new Premiership season in August.
But while Tayside’s top flight pair can now begin their preparations for the new campaign, other Courier country clubs have been left in limbo.
SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell and SPFL boss Neil Doncaster yesterday presented their plan to bring Scottish football out of cold storage to the Government’s minister for public health, sport and wellbeing, Joe FitzPatrick, and the national clinical director for Scotland, Professor Jason Leitch.
The nation’s public health leaders okayed the lifting of the SFA’s total suspension of football in Scotland from June 11 – but only for Premiership clubs to begin a gradual return to training, in-line with the Government’s phasing programme.
Should the resumption, backed by a rigorous testing programme, run smoothly – and should the country at large continue on its path out of lockdown restrictions – the top flight of Scottish football will be on course to kick off behind closed doors on the weekend of August 1 and 2.
With the return of fans to stadiums not yet in sight, no decision has been reached on starting up the Championship, League One or League Two, leaving the likes of Dundee, Dunfermline, Arbroath, Raith Rovers, Cowdenbeath, East Fife, Forfar, Montrose and Brechin in the dark.
Announcing the success of the SFA and SPFL’s Premiership plan, SFA chief Ian Maxwell insisted the lower leagues will not be left behind.
He said: “I would like to thank the minister and the national clinical director for Scotland for their receptiveness to our proposal.
“Return to professional football has been the culmination of weeks of hard work from across the game from people whose workloads and demands have already been increased to cope with the impact of COVID-19 on their clubs or areas of work within Scottish football.
“In particular, I would like to thank our chief medical consultant, Dr John MacLean, for his invaluable input throughout this process. As a JRG (SFA and SPFL coronavirus Joint Response Group) member and co-chair of the medical sub group, he has overseen creation of a comprehensive strategy for testing procedures and safe ‘return to training’ and ‘return to playing’ protocols that have given confidence that the Scottish Premiership can kick-off in August.
“As the governing body, we will continue to engage with government and key stakeholders to provide a similar plan for the return of the game at all levels of Scottish football.
“While acknowledging that the current testing regime required to be observed will be prohibitive for most clubs out with the Premiership at this time, we are aware that there are hundreds of thousands of players across the Scottish football landscape looking for clarity on when they can return to action.”
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster added: “We are delighted that the Scottish Government have given the green light to the resumption of football training in June.
“We now have a firm target of starting the 2020/21 Premiership season on the weekend of August 1 and that’s a major step forward. We will continue working with the Championship, League One and League Two to gauge their ability to start the season and if so, when, which may vary hugely between clubs.
“We clearly welcome the prospect of resuming matches, but we have to take all necessary steps to ensure we can have a sustainable league campaign. That means a safety-first approach, with games initially played behind closed doors and a range of measures to protect players and staff.
“The return of crowds is something we all want to see and we will be working with clubs, Government and medical professionals to return safely to playing in front of fans as soon as we can.”