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Coronavirus could make season very difficult to complete – Neil Doncaster

The football season in Scotland could be “very difficult” to complete should even one club’s first team be affected by the coronavirus outbreak, Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster has warned.

The Hampden boss also said that clubs would be left facing “dire financial consequences” if games are forced to be postponed.

The number of Scots who have fallen victim to Covid-19 doubled on Thursday,  with six cases now confirmed north of the border – taking the number of positive tests in the UK to 115.

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Celtic are currently 13 points clear of Rangers at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership as they chase a record-equalling ninth successive title.

The Scottish season is scheduled to run until late May.

Doncaster said: “We are taking a pragmatic approach to the current situation and have alerted our members to the fact that, if the outbreak affects the first team of even one SPFL club, it could make completing the SPFL season very difficult, so first-team players and staff should be extremely vigilant.

“Whilst the current, clear advice is that matches should proceed as scheduled, we will obviously prepare for contingencies where matches might have to be played behind closed doors, or even be cancelled, as we have already seen with other major sporting events.

“With that in mind, we have alerted the Scottish Government to the dire financial consequences facing clubs if the current situation changes and clubs are unable to generate revenue from ticket sales.”

Doncaster has joined forces with his Scottish Football Association counterpart Ian Maxwell to form a Joint Response Group to deal with fall-out from the coronavirus panic.

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So far, the Hampden supremos are following government advice, which says “there is presently no rationale to close or cancel sporting events”.

But Maxwell has urged everyone involved in the game to do all they can to limit the spread of the virus.

He said: “Together with our colleagues at the SPFL, we have written to our members to underline that we will do everything possible to complete fixtures, whilst taking fully on board the Government’s expert advice and the guidance of our medical consultant, Dr John MacLean.

“We have also advised our clubs of the absolute necessity of following hygiene best practice at stadiums, training grounds and other premises, as well as providing information to staff, fans, contractors, broadcasters and other media entering club premises.”