SPFL could challenge Uefa on Euro placings - Tony McGlennan

By Scott MullenBBC Sport Scotland
Tony McGlennan
Tony McGlennan was the Scottish FA's compliance officer for four years

The SPFL "would have a case" to keep European placings if the Scottish campaign was called off, says former Scottish FA compliance officer Tony McGlennan.

Uefa warned last week that ending competitions prematurely could result in forfeiting Champions League and Europa League spots.

The SPFL have yet to decide how to proceed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"This is a hugely unenviable task," McGlennan told BBC Scotland.

"The SPFL have to do what they consider right for their members. There will be varying interests within that, financial pressures, clubs in distress who will be looking at distribution of prize money.

"Equally, they will have their future relationship with Uefa to consider, they will also have where this may leave them in terms of eligibility for European competition.

"It's a risk-based analysis for the SPFL."

Uefa's response was triggered after Belgium became the first to declare an end to their 19-20 campaign early, with the Belgian Pro League having since said they have received assurances from Europe's governing body that they would not force leagues to continue.

Currently, Celtic are 13 points clear at the top of the Scottish top flight, meaning they would be in line for a Champions League qualification spot. There are three other Europa League spots to allocate, with Rangers and Motherwell set to benefit if the Premiership was called now.

The Scottish Cup semi-finals were scheduled for this weekend.

The regulations for both European competitions state that placings will be awarded on the principle of sporting merit, and it is in this wording that McGlennan, now having returned to life as a solicitor after four years at Hampden, believes the Scottish league body may have a case.

"I don't see that term further defined in the regulations, nor is there reference of that being at the conclusion of a season," he said.

"If [the SPFL] have financial or other reasons which is encouraging them to call or declare their league, there would be, on the basis of that criteria, an argument to say the final standing is based on sporting merit.

"Against that, there is a difficulty for them as they will be seemingly doing it in the teeth of Uefa opposition. It's a quandary.

"They would have a case, as far as I can see, to take this course of action and argue it with Uefa. I suspect that they may be more comfortable doing it with Uefa's acquiescence."

'Closed-door games won't help'

While the focus has primarily been on either finishing the season or calling it now, the notion of playing games behind closed doors has also been floated.

On Friday, Uefa lifted a ban on showing games at 15:00 on a Saturday live on TV in England and Scotland in what is seen as moves towards restarting some domestic competitions in the UK without supporters.

However, McGlennan does not believe this is a viable option, either from a safety point of view or as a solution to hold up sporting merit.

"A game played behind closed doors doesn't have the same conditions as a game played live," he said. "Most obviously, the home team doesn't gain the usual home support benefit.

"If we play games behind closed doors, inevitably there is the greater risk of crowds gathering nearer stadia, of gatherings to watch the match on TV. It's hard to see how that would help the current situation."

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