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Scottish football’s Joint Response Group gives teams below Premiership all-clear to restart contact training

Hampden Park, home of the SFA and SPFL
Hampden Park, home of the SFA and SPFL

Professional and non-professional football teams in Scotland can resume contact training from Monday in a move described as a “hugely positive step” by Scottish FA president Rod Petrie.

The move is in line with the update provided by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday to phase three of the Scottish Government’s route map out of the Covid-19 crisis.

The details were outlined to Scottish Championship, League One and League Two clubs in a series of videoconference calls hosted by the Scottish FA and SPFL’s Joint Response Group yesterday.

The Betfred Cup is due to start on October 6 with the Championship, League One and League Two set to get under way on October 17.

Further meetings are scheduled for tiers five and six of the Scottish football pyramid early next week, but the announcement could pave the way for the return of Highland League and junior football.

During organised football training, adults can participate in groups of up to 10 players and two coaches within a quarter of a pitch and up to 18 players and four coaches within half a pitch. Players do not need to adhere to physical distancing on the pitch, but all coaches must maintain two-metre physical distancing at all times.

Rod Petrie, chair of the Joint Response Group, said: “This is a significant and hugely positive step forward for the whole of Scottish football and means that training can resume for both the professional and grassroots game from Monday.

“I understand the sacrifices players, coaches and clubs have been forced to make to get to this point but the health of the nation remains our absolute priority.

“Through the JRG and its grassroots sub group we have worked hard since Thursday’s announcement from the first minister to put the latest government advice into context for the professional and non-professional game and to make the message as clear and as simple as possible.

“Training can resume on Monday in line with government’s ongoing social distancing measures and advice and, if the virus continues to be contained in Scotland, then the path to competitive football matches being played by October is tangible.

“We must continue to be vigilant and respect the guidance and protocols that are in place but on the JRG calls with Championship, League One and League Two today you could sense the anticipation to get football back and I know from my board colleague, Thomas McKeown, that the announcement has been met with similar excitement across the grassroots game.”

The news comes in light of the first minister announcing that Scottish football grounds could be opened up to fans from September 14, with restricted numbers and physical distancing measures in place.

Celtic boss Neil Lennon says the Hoops have held discussions with the Scottish Government over the possibility of getting fans into their home match with Motherwell next weekend.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “This is a major milestone in getting our game fully up and running again. It’s hard to overstate the significance of this development for clubs outwith the Premiership, which can now start preparing with confidence for the Betfred Cup on October 6.

“The next crucial step will be allowing Scottish football fans back into games, based on the comprehensive range of safety measures which have been developed by clubs in close consultation with health experts.

“Discussions on pilot events at Premiership matches are now under way and everyone is determined, for the sake of the Scottish game as a whole, to ensure these go smoothly and safely.”

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