Scottish football beneath the Championship will remain in lockdown for another two weeks at least, the Scottish Football Association has announced.
Hampden bosses confirmed on January 11 they had decided to postpone action in League One and League Two – plus the Highland and Lowland Leagues and women’s football – in response to the latest spike in coronavirus cases across the country.
Now, with Scotland still in the midst of a national lockdown, those measures have been extended to February 14.
The third round of the Scottish Cup – originally scheduled for Saturday – has also been put on hold again, with its planned return date of February 20 now set to be used by Scottish Professional Football League chiefs to fulfil outstanding league games.
The SFA made its announcement following talks with lower league chairmen.
“This process has been beneficial in understanding the specific challenges faced by clubs at those levels within the men’s and women’s games, in particular understanding the key components required to facilitate return to play within each competition when it is safe to do so,” the governing body said in a statement.
“Given that current lockdown measures implemented by the First Minister will now remain in place across Scotland until at least the middle of February, the existing temporary suspension of football will be extended until midnight on Sunday, 14 February.
“This affects leagues with predominantly part-time clubs – although a number of full-time clubs have been affected.
“The Scottish FA will continue to work with those affected to develop league and division-specific plans for a return to training and playing, including adequate training and conditioning time.
“Those circumstances vary across our game and will be kept under constant review with any restart of the game likely to happen on a progressive basis.
“The Scottish FA will continue to work with Scottish Professional Football League colleagues to accommodate the dislocated Scottish Cup fixtures when it is deemed safe and practical to do so.”
A further update will be announced by February 10 but the news will come as a further hammer blow to full-time clubs such as Partick Thistle and Falkirk.
Both League One outfits hit out at the decision to shut down the lower leagues earlier this month, claiming it was done without consultation.
SFA president Rod Petrie said: “The conversations we have had with representatives from the clubs and leagues affected by the temporary suspension have been hugely beneficial.
“We have been able to further communicate the rationale behind the decision in the midst of an ongoing pandemic whilst also hearing at first hand the most important issues facing clubs and leagues at each level of the game.
“We have also been greatly encouraged by the sense of togetherness shown by the clubs and the robustness with which protocols and measures have been implemented in the interests of player and staff safety within football.
“A number of initiatives have been suggested which may help to make the eventual return to playing efficient without compromising safety.
“The decision to extend the suspension is necessary given the Scottish Government’s own extension of existing lockdown measures. Football will play its part to support the collective effort to reduce the spread of the new variants of the COVID-19 virus.
“We are grateful for the input of all groups involved in our online discussions this week and we will continue to liaise ahead of our next public update on February 10.”