Celtic won its ninth straight Scottish title on Monday after the country’s top soccer league was cut short because there was no immediate prospect of play restarting amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Scotland joined France, the Netherlands and Belgium in calling off the season early, with Scottish soccer at all levels suspended until June 10 at the earliest. There have been no games in the Scottish league since March 13.
Celtic dedicated the club’s latest league title – its 51st, only three behind the national record held by Glasgow rival Rangers – to “key workers who are saving lives, cleaning hospitals, stacking shelves and shielding loved ones at home.”
“DO NOT come to Celtic Park,” Celtic urged fans, with Scotland still under strict lockdown restrictions during the pandemic.
Final season placings were determined by average points per game, which left Celtic with 2.66 after collecting 80 points from 30 games. Rangers finished second with 2.31 points per game.
The only change to the standings under the points-per-game scenario saw St. Johnstone jump above Hibernian into sixth place.
Last-place Hearts was relegated but the Edinburgh club, which had been one of the teams opposing the controversial decision to allow the season to finish early, said it will “continue to fight against what we believe is an unjust outcome.”
“We have stated from the outset that we don’t believe it is right that any club should be unfairly penalized because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hearts said. “Legal action would be both time-consuming and expensive. However, the cost to the club of relegation would outweigh these considerations.”
The Scottish Professional Football League said clubs in the top division expressed a unanimous view on Friday that there is no prospect of completing the remaining matches.
Confirmation that the season was curtailed by the SPFL came Monday.
“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,” SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan said.
“COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on sporting competitions around the world and the repercussions will be felt for a long time.”
Along with the government restrictions, MacLennan said “deep concerns for both player and spectator safety” were behind the decision to cut the season short.
The SPFL will now pay out $8.5 million in fees “to help clubs stay afloat,” chief executive Neil Doncaster said, adding that the next league season is due to start on Aug. 1.
“Nobody should be under any illusion,” MacLennan said, “as to how complicated and difficult a challenge it will be to return Scottish football to normality.”