The Scottish FA has announced a three-week suspension of part-time football amid the “escalating Covid-19 situation”.
Scottish Government guidelines allow for professional football to continue under tougher lockdown restrictions, however, calls had been growing for the untested part-time game to be paused.
All leagues below the Scottish Championship, which includes Leagues One and Two, the Highland League and the Scottish Women’s Premier League, have now been put on hold.
The SFA says “the board gave extensive consideration to making a decision in the interests of public health, taking cognisance of the government’s wish to reduce travel and possible contact with others whilst safeguarding commercial broadcasting contracts that sustain the professional game”.
The mainly full-time Championship has been allowed to continue, provided clubs now adopt weekly coronavirus testing.
Premiership players are tested, so the top-flight will go on as planned.
The suspension will be reviewed on January 31, while the Scottish Cup, which saw full-time and part-time teams in second round action over the weekend, has been suspended indefinitely.
Rod Petrie, Scottish FA President: “The Scottish FA is well aware of the efforts all clubs take to comply with the exacting protocols that were conditional on elite football being given an exemption to continue amid the pandemic.
“None the less, the continuation of football at all levels has weighed increasingly heavy on me as president, my colleagues on the board and the Joint Response Group as we have watched the new strain of the virus spread rapidly.
“While the national sport has been afforded the privilege of elite sporting exemption, the risk of mass transportation of untested, largely part-time players is something that cannot be sustained as the cases continue to rise and available hospital beds become increasingly scarce.
“After discussions with the SPFL, the Premiership and Championship will continue on the proviso that both adhere to the existing testing regime. The vast majority of teams in those divisions are full-time professional clubs and so the risk of transmission remains manageably low.
“The cost implications to lower-division clubs was one factor, but so too the realisation that many – with some notable exceptions – consist of part-time players who are either prevented from working due to the virus or have to work.
“In either case, the risk is currently too great amid the developing nationwide spread of the virus.
“Much has been said of football’s relationship with the Scottish Government during the pandemic. As president of the Scottish FA and chair of the Joint Response Group, I am grateful for the clinical expertise provided by government specifically to football and for the timely award of £30 million in grant and loan funding for the game.
“We reiterate our commitment to playing our part in the collective effort to eradicate the virus.”
Juniors Camelon are due to host Highland League Brora Rangers in the Scottish Cup first round tonight. A tie which has been postponed six times.
As the new SFA rules come into effect from midnight, it is expected this match will still go ahead.