The fallout from the ending of the 2019/20 Scottish football season.
May 18th will be noted as one of the most significant days in the history books of Scottish football, as the Scottish Football Association made the decision to end the top flight 2019/20 season with Celtic being crowned champions and Hearts being relegated to the Scottish Championship. The decision followed similar rulings in the lower leagues of Scottish football, most notably seeing the return of Dundee United to the Scottish Premiership and the continued suffering of Partick Thistle.
The 2019/20 season will go down as the first since the Second World War was from 1939 to 1945 to have any form of suspension to a football season or having a series of major leagues not take place. This, therefore, leaves our latest season to be ended in somewhat controversial fashion, with the 2019/20 campaign halted in the middle of the closest title race in the Scottish top flight in the last 5 years.
Needless to say that the decision to have the current seasons ended has sent shockwaves across the whole of Scottish football with a rightful mixture of anger, sadness and happiness from a wide variety of fans from clubs across the country.
This season, however, isn’t just notable for being shortened, but for its crowning of Celtic as historic champions. With their awarded championship victory, they have become the first club in Scottish History to win nine consecutive top-flight Scottish championships on two separate occasions, with this season repeating the feat they achieved from 1965 to 1974. Yet, sadly for Celtic, this amazing achievement has been smacked with an almighty asterisk.
This, alongside many other reasons, has led the Scottish football faithful to ask the important question: was it right to end the season?
I would have loved to have seen the league continue with remaining games played, and I am without doubt that every other fan is of the same belief. It would have been a wonderful sight to see if the title race got any closer, or if Hearts could have scrapped for another year in the league. Of course, Celtic fans would have loved a remarkable celebration of the historic nine in a row. However, in reality, there wasn’t truly any possible way to successfully continue the season in a fashion which wouldn’t put the players in danger or in an enjoyable manner.
At the time of writing, the German Bundesliga has just returned to BT Sport to many fans delight, marking the first live football on our screens for over two months. Yet, while it’s nice to have it back, football fans have watched on with sheer disappointment as the games lacked a significant part of what makes it special – the fans. A wise man once said that ‘football is nothing without the fans’, and in these moments there is nothing truer. If Scottish football was to return in the style of the Bundesliga, it wouldn’t be the Scottish football we know and love. Our football is about the characters in the game and the fan interaction – the thought of watching an Old Firm without chants from opposing ends seems alien. Imagine not hearing the rings of You’ll Never Walk Alone or Simply The Best being belted out before a game, it just doesn’t seem right.
It’s hard not to feel a level of pity for the relegated teams, Partick Thistle and Hearts, who could have saved their poor season with a small burst of form, something which has happened before several times. With various prizes and safety at stake for a multitude of clubs, each has its own favouring of the outcome of the season – and the conflict in finding a resolution to end the season has left an extremely bad taste in the mouth. The bitterness felt in the attempts to have a league reconstructed have not reflected well on Scottish football, with a proposal from Hearts seeming like a true last-ditch attempt to retain their stance as a top-flight football club. While it is fair to feel bad for Hearts, such actions have a greater, detrimental effect on Scottish football as a whole, as they threaten further legal action due to what they see as an “unjust decision”. What this shows is the variety of stakes at play for a number of clubs, and while negative in certain circumstances, the decision was not made without the inclusion of all 42 two clubs involved in all four Scottish leagues.
In truth, there were only ever two viable options. The decision taken by the SFA to crown Celtic as champions, and the other being to void the league. This option seems extremely unfair to most clubs and their efforts throughout the seasons that would put European spots in danger for Scotland – something which is already difficult to achieve. The SFA made the correct decision for the benefit of Scottish Football and the players within it, and we could see this action taken across further leagues (with the French and Dutch already abandoning their seasons too). Of course, a similar outcry is to come wherever this happens next, but with the health of the nation at risk, major steps must be taken.