All Scottish football has been suspended until further notice due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The SPFL has announced the postponement of fixtures from Friday, with this Sunday’s Old Firm clash between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox among those affected.
The Scottish FA said it had made the decision in the interests of the health and safety of players, match officials, staff, supporters and the general public.
South of the border, top-level English football has been suspended until April 3 at the earliest due to Covid-19.
NEWS The Joint Response Group can confirm the decision of the Scottish FA Board to suspend ALL domestic professional and grassroots football under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA until further notice.https://t.co/xGeafo2rE0
— Scottish FA (@ScottishFA) March 13, 2020
Announcing the Scottish decision, SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell said: “Today’s announcement is made in the interests of public health but, equally, the health and safety of players, match officials, and staff across the game. This is of paramount importance as the country enters the ‘delay’ phase of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is also why the Scottish FA is compelled to ensure that the suspension is cascaded through the non-professional and grassroots games until further notice.”
Friday’s Premiership match between Motherwell and Aberdeen and the Championship match between Queen of the South and Ayr United are the first to be postponed.
The SFA and SPFL said they will continue to liaise with governments and Uefa in relation to domestic, European and international fixtures in the coming days.
Neil Doncaster, SPFL chief executive, said there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus amongst players in Scotland, but given the nature of the outbreak it seems “only a matter of time” until there are.
On Thursday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced large gatherings which require emergency service support or could impact the health service would cease from Monday in Scotland to “remove unnecessary burdens” on front-line services.
For those in equal number suggesting we’re overreacting and not acting fast enough we are doing neither. The balance of which population interventions and their timing is crucial. We are not complacent. #Covid19@JeaneF1MSPpic.twitter.com/XBcnkHayOd
— Jason Leitch (@jasonleitch) March 12, 2020
However Professor Jason Leitch, who is responsible for planning in the Scottish NHS, said on Friday that more “draconian measures” such as closing borders, stopping travel and halting public transport would risk creating further problems in the future.
He told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “The best science available says that if you allow the growth at a certain level – and you can’t control 60 million people exactly – we will control the rising of the peak and we won’t create a second peak.
“We fear that in other parts of the world that’s what they’re doing.
“If you release those measures, the virus is still there and you have very few people who are now immune to the virus because you have very few people who have caught the virus.
“You’re just delaying the inevitable.”
On the potential for school closures, Mr Leitch said they are “not necessarily going to happen” as he explained children having to be looked after and their apparent lower contagion are two key reasons for not shutting them at this stage.
The NHS and government are well-prepared to deal with coronavirus (#COVIDー19). There are some simple steps you can take to help.
Please watch and share this video ⬇️
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) March 11, 2020
Asked about rumours that schools are planning to shut, Mr Leitch said: “I absolutely guarantee there is no plan right now, and no substantive rumours, that we’re going to close schools next week.”
But Lanark Grammar School has temporarily closed for deep cleaning after a case of the virus was confirmed there.
Scotland’s Economy and Fair Work Secretary Fiona Hyslop also announced on Friday morning that an advice helpline for Scottish businesses has been set up, with companies able to call 0300 303 0660 for assistance.
As of 2pm on Thursday, 60 people in Scotland had tested positive for the virus.