Joe Fitzpatrick

Sports Minister Allows Return To Training, Football on Hold To Phase 2

Scottish Sports Minister, Joe Fitzpatrick met the heads of major sporting bodies today (Friday 29 May 2020) to discuss how to restart Scottish football and rugby.

Following this meeting alongside Jason Leitch, National Clinical Director, the Scottish FA have been given the green light to lift football’s suspension for top-flight clubs on 11 June 2020 allowing them to return to training.

However, a return to matches won’t be allowed until Phase 2 of the Scottish Government’s easing of the coronavirus lockdown.  All matches at this stage will be behind closed doors.

Mr Fitzpatrick said: ““We understand the importance of sport to the people of Scotland, and the desire of many to see it resume.

“Earlier today I met with senior representatives from football, rugby and racing to consider in detail how those sports will resume when it is safe to do so.

“When we are in Phase 2 of our pandemic route map, and suitable health protection measures are in place, then elite football, rugby and racing should be able to resume behind closed doors.

“As we are currently unable to say exactly when Phase 2 will commence, any proposed dates for resumption behind closed doors must be provisional and subject to wider public health considerations. However, I know everyone involved will welcome some clarity to assist planning.”

Any prospect of fans being allowed into games won’t happen until Phases 3 and 4 of the Scottish Government’s lockdown exit strategy.

A footall joint response group statement said: “We have recommended lifting the Scottish FA’s suspension of football, for the Scottish Premiership only, from June 11.

“This will enable Premiership clubs to begin preparations to ensure their training grounds and stadia are equipped to deal with the increased safety measures necessary to create biosecure environments for players and staff, including the ability to undertake the necessary testing procedures and observing stringent training and matchday protocols.

“It will also provide sufficient period for clubs to begin a phased return to pre-season training in line with the government’s phasing programme, beginning with individual sessions and evolving into smaller groups at the appropriate time before entering into full squad training and preparation prior to the scheduled start date.

“We are fully aware that the third stage of a return to professional football, the ability for fans to return to grounds, will not happen immediately due to the government’s social distancing and mass gathering measures to counteract the spread of coronavirus. We will continue to plan for the gradual reintroduction of fans as soon as it is deemed safe to do so by the medical experts.”

SFA boss Maxwell 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 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.

“In particular, the paused Scottish Women’s Premier League is keen to restart and we will be discussing with stakeholders the process to restart the women’s senior game in line with the government’s route map out of lockdown.

“Conversations will continue in the coming weeks to outline a pragmatic approach for the whole game and we will communicate those developments at the appropriate time.”