Old Firm derby between Rangers and Celtic off as Scottish FA suspends all football

Steven Gerrard, Neil Lennon
Image: All Scottish games have been postponed until further notice

All professional and grassroots football under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA has been suspended until further notice, in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

The Scottish Football Association and Scottish Professional Football League's joint response group announced the decision on Friday.

That means this weekend's round of fixtures, including Celtic's visit to Ibrox to face Rangers in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday, have been postponed indefinitely.

On Thursday, the Scottish government announced plans to cancel gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday in an effort to "remove unnecessary burdens" on front-line health and emergency services.

That paved the way for Sunday's Old Firm fixture at Ibrox, which has a capacity of more than 50,000, to go ahead, but the Scottish FA have now decided to suspend all fixtures with immediate effect as the global coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen.

3:05
Charles Paterson explains why the decision has been taken to suspend football in Scotland indefinitely in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic

Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA chief executive, said: "Since the guidance outlined by governments last night we have been engaged in extensive dialogue to clarify the position and implications of that guidance for Scottish football.

"Today's announcement is made in the interests of public health but, equally, the health and safety of players, match officials, and staff across the game. This is of paramount importance as the country enters the 'delay' phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

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"It is also why the Scottish FA is compelled to ensure that the suspension is cascaded through the non-professional and grassroots games until further notice."

The move from the Scottish FA mirrors that of the Football Association, who announced earlier on Friday, in conjunction with the Premier League. EFL, FA Women's Super League and FA Women's Championship, that all top-level fixtures in England have been suspended until April 3 at the earliest.

Neil Doncaster, SPFL chief executive, said: "As everyone knows, this is a fast-moving and unprecedented situation for the entire country.

"We have been in intensive and detailed discussions since last night and have also been taking on board the experience of our counterparts in England and across Europe. As a result, the board of the SPFL has agreed this morning that all league fixtures this weekend and next midweek will be postponed until further notice.

"The health and safety of fans, players and officials is absolutely paramount. We have not yet had any confirmed cases of coronavirus amongst players in Scotland, but, given the nature of this outbreak, it seems only a matter of time.

"We realise that many people will be bitterly disappointed, and we would obviously prefer to be in a position where we can continue as normal, but that's neither realistic nor possible."

Ibrox was due to stage the Old Firm game on Sunday
Image: Ibrox was due to stage the Old Firm game on Sunday

Rangers have backed the decision to postpone Sunday's Old Firm clash as well as next week's Europa League trip to Germany to face Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday.

The club said in a statement: "Rangers is disappointed but not surprised that all domestic and European football has been suspended and that our forthcoming matches against Celtic and Bayer Leverkusen have been postponed.

"However, we fully agree with the reasons behind the decisions taken by UEFA, the Scottish FA and the SPFL.

"While the club has sympathy with our vast number of supporters who have experienced a great deal of uncertainty and confusion over the last week, their health and wellbeing must take priority.

"We are aware of the inconvenience caused to supporters but everything that can be done to minimise the effects of coronavirus must be done and Rangers will continue to be guided by experts in the field."

Coronavirus - key sporting developments

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