Celtic have been crowned Scottish Premier League (SPFL) champions for the ninth time in a row after the remainder of country’s 2019-20 season was cancelled due to the coronavirus, the league has announced.
Last week, Scottish clubs voted unanimously to call off the remainder of the season. Celtic were named champions following a board meeting on Monday, while Hearts, who were four points adrift in last place, were relegated.
Eight rounds of matches in the campaign were still to be played, with Celtic holding a 13-point lead over second-place Rangers, who had played one match fewer.
The league said in a statement: “The SPFL has today announced that, following consultation with all 12 top-flight clubs, the Board of the SPFL has determined that the 2019-20 Ladbrokes Premiership has been concluded with immediate effect.
“As with the Ladbrokes Championship, Ladbrokes League One and Ladbrokes League Two competitions, final season placings have been determined by points-per-game in league matches played to 13 March, 2020 by each club.”
Hearts still have some chance of survival after the league allowed for talks to take place over a temporary league reconstruction that could see additional teams added to Scotland’s top-flight. The club said in a statement that they are considering legal action following the ruling, calling the decision to relegate them “unjust.”
“We have stated from the outset that we don’t believe it is right that any club should be unfairly penalised because of the coronavirus pandemic,” Hearts said in a statement.
“It was previously indicated that league reconstruction would not generate enough support to pass a vote between member clubs. In recent days a number of positive talks have been held with both the SPFL and member clubs and this topic is being revisited.
“This is possibly the final chance for our game to stand together, protect each other and not only survive but flourish in the aftermath of this terrible pandemic. Players from across all leagues have shown a desire for reconstruction and having already received support from some clubs we are hopeful that this resolution can positively progress Scottish football.
“As previously intimated the club has been taking legal advice throughout this process and are continuing to do so. We hope that the resolution being prepared will avoid the need to go down this route. Legal action would be both time consuming and expensive. However the cost to the club of relegation would outweigh these considerations.”
SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan said: “We would all have rather seen the league season played out on pitches, in stadiums and in front of supporters.
“This is not the way anybody involved with Scottish football would have wanted to conclude the league season but, given the grave and unprecedented circumstances that we are facing, the Board has agreed that it is the only practical way forward.”
Meanwhile, England’s Premier League clubs are yet to begin group training, although the league could resume behind closed doors in June after the British government set out a road map to emerge from coronavirus lockdown measures earlier this week.
Clubs are hopeful of a June 8 restart, and to finish by the end of July and fit in with UEFA’s European competition plans. A vote by Premier League clubs on whether they should begin group training is set to held on Monday.