League 1 and 2 clubs working on plans to complete 2020/21 seasons
Falkirk and Stenhousemuir players are ready to get back training and complete their 2020/21 League 1 and League 2 seasons.
The 20 teams across the two divisions, who have been out of action since January 11, have been given approval from the Scottish government to return providing the players and staff undertake regular Covid testing.
The SFA had promised an update by March 1 which did come but in the form of a disappointing statement saying that they “await a final decision from ministers.”
However, that initial sense of frustration didn’t last long as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced at a Scottish Government briefing on Tuesday that both divisions, along with the Scottish Cup, would be allowed to resume to conclude the season.
She said: “Later today, the public health minister will support the resumption of competitive football in Scottish Leagues 1 and 2, the Scottish Women's League 1 and, for the purposes of playing Scottish Cup ties, certain Highland League teams and I hope this will be welcomed by football fans across the country."
Reacting to that news, Scottish FA President Rod Petrie commented: “We are pleased that the First Minister has again recognised the importance of football in Scotland.
“The decision to temporarily suspend parts of the professional game played by predominantly part-time teams was not an easy one to take.
"None the less, given the sharp rise in infection rates caused by new strains of the virus at the start of the year, it was the right thing to do to assist the national effort to reduce its prevalence during lockdown.
“The preparatory work undertaken with representatives of affected leagues and their commitment to the inclusion of weekly PCR testing, has given ministers the confidence to permit the return of SWPL 1 and SPFL League One and Two.
“While we are pleased to see the return of these leagues, there remain significant numbers unable to return to play, including the remaining levels of the professional pyramid, elite youth football, club youth football and our amateur and grassroots clubs across both the male and female game.
“We are acutely aware of the desire within those levels of football to return to playing football and we will continue to work with the Scottish Government to ensure they are able to as soon as it is safe to do so.”
As the Falkirk Herald went to print, no update had been given on revised dates for league and Scottish Cup fixtures to be played.
Despite that, both Stenny and Falkirk remain confident of completing their current seasons and achieving their goals.
A Falkirk FC spokesman said: “As you might expect we very much welcome the news that football in Leagues One and Two will be returning.
“We can debate the rights and wrongs of being put into this position in the first place but we’re pleased that a level of common sense has prevailed and we will be allowed the opportunity to finish the season.
“Clubs are still working through the detail on exactly how we’ll restart the leagues in terms of how many games are to be played, when they will take place and how the Scottish Cup will be restarted.
"Discussions ran late into the night on Tuesday and we’re hopeful that competitive football will return in the next few weeks.
“Our priority now is arranging the appropriate testing and getting our players back to training and if everything runs smoothly then we expect the squad back at The Falkirk Stadium this weekend.”
Stenhousemuir FC chairman Iain McMenemy commented: “The period of suspension since mid-January until now has been incredibly difficult for clubs, players and fans.
"The clubs are engaged in discussions with the SPFL and it is envisaged that we’ll be starting training straight away, once our next round of COVID tests have been undertaken and the results back with the club.
"Matches should resume later in March, albeit behind closed doors, but we’ll be picking up the live game streaming service and I know our match commentators are ready and able to get back behind the microphones.
“Our players have been keeping themselves match fit and have all been working to individual programmes put in place by our sports scientists, however, they will require a short period of ‘pre-season’ before we can get competitive games underway once again.
"I know that our players are keen to get back, they’ve made that point to us loud and clear, and I’d like to place on record our thanks to them for keeping at it during this enforced suspension.
"Full PCR testing comes at a significant cost to the club, but we’re a football club and we just want to get back playing.
"I know our supporters have missed their football, and we all feel we owe it to fans to get their game back.
"We will be using the money received from Government for testing, and we will be aiming for a strong finish to the season.
"The next objective will be to get fans back into grounds.
"This might be a wee while away yet, but the game needs it, and with the vaccination programme clearly having a significant positive effect on the virus, fans should be able to get to games in the near future.”