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Second consecutive St Mirren match postponed due to coronavirus

St Mirren v Celtic – Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership – Simple Digital Arena
(Image credit: Ian Rutherford)

A second consecutive St Mirren match has been postponed as the Scottish Professional Football League signalled a tough stance on coronavirus call-offs by launching disciplinary action against Kilmarnock.

Hamilton’s trip to Paisley has been called off after St Mirren informed the SPFL they could not play following another round of positive Covid-19 tests this week.

Three positive cases  – plus orders for other players to self-isolate – saw Motherwell’s trip to the Simple Digital Arena shelved at late notice last weekend.

St Mirren were already under investigation and now face the potential prospect of having two 3-0 defeats imposed on them after the SPFL alleged Kilmarnock had breached the league’s coronavirus protocols ahead of their postponed game against Motherwell on October 2.

An investigation was launched after six positive Covid-19 tests led to the entire Killie first-team squad being instructed to self-isolate.

The SPFL has now announced that a hearing will be held before a sub-committee of the board, chaired by an “independent legally-qualified chair”. The date of the hearing is still to be announced.

A brief Kilmarnock statement responded: “The club will defend our position fully.”

The St Mirren game was later called off following talks between the club and public health officials.

An SPFL statement read: “St Mirren have informed the SPFL that, due to a number of positive tests for Covid-19 amongst their playing squad and coaching staff, and a number of other players who are isolating, they have only 11 registered fit players available for tomorrow’s game against Hamilton Academical – and that, as a result, St Mirren are unable to fulfil tomorrow’s fixture.

“As a result, and in line with standard procedure, the SPFL has postponed the fixture pending the ongoing investigation into the events at St Mirren.”

Saints declared that Public Health Scotland had placed their entire first-team squad and coaching staff in self-isolation.

Chief Executive Tony Fitzpatrick added: “We appreciate this is a frustrating situation for all connected to the club and those involved at Hamilton Academical.

“This continues to be a challenging time for the club but the health and wellbeing of our players and staff remains our utmost concern.”

The developments came after the league asked clubs to reconsider previously-rejected proposals to hand the SPFL board powers to determine the fate of the season.

Clubs will be asked how many matches they think should have to be played before final placings can be decided rather than a season being declared void.

Members will also be asked whether league games should be routinely forfeited if a club cannot fulfil a fixture, as happens in the Betfred Cup.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “The fact that our rules did not expressly cover the situation where a season must be curtailed with a number of matches remaining to be played caused a great deal of uncertainty and delay in reaching a resolution last season. No-one wants to see that repeated.

Neil Doncaster wants greater clarity

Neil Doncaster wants greater clarity (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“Many of our clubs support the principle of drawing up a set of protocols long before we get to the situation where league positions understandably influence the individual approach of clubs to these difficult situations.

“However, the proposal to allow the board a clearly specified and limited degree of authority to take action if we are unable to complete the season did not have sufficient support in the summer.

“Given the ongoing challenges caused to sport worldwide by Covid-19, several clubs have now indicated they have changed their position.

“The board wishes to establish if a sufficient number of clubs now wish to revisit this issue, so we can significantly reduce the uncertainty and division that arose towards the end of last season.”

Doncaster added: “If there is sufficient support to secure an amendment to the SPFL rules, then all clubs will know well in advance of any need to curtail the season what the outcome will be – so far as concerns league positions, promotion, relegation, play-offs, fees and qualification for UEFA competitions.”