SPFL: Key questions before vote on ending season early

Hampden Stadium
Clubs will on Friday vote on a proposal to end the Championship, League One and League Two seasons early

Scottish football clubs are preparing to cast their votes on the future of the 2019-20 season.

The SPFL has recommended clubs vote in favour of its resolution which involves ending the lower leagues early, while doing likewise with the Premiership, only when it becomes clear the season cannot be completed.

The top flight is left untouched for now in large part because of Uefa’s letter which said associations might be denied places in European competitions if they call leagues early.

On Thursday, the Scottish season was suspended until at least 10 June.

Clubs such as Rangers, Hearts and Partick Thistle have already opposed the league’s plans, so what are they key questions before Friday’s 17:00 BST deadline?

BBC Scotland takes a closer look.

How does the vote work?

Due to the current lockdown measures, meetings are taking place via video conference calls. Clubs have been issued digitally with a “voting paper” where they can register their vote. All clubs have been asked to return these by 17:00 on Friday.

To pass, nine of the 12 Premiership clubs must vote in favour, along with eight of the 10 clubs in the Championship, and 15 of the 20 in Leagues One and Two together.

Who stands to gain?

Fairly obviously, those clubs that are top of their respective leagues. Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers will be awarded titles and promotion with Celtic securing the Premiership, should the SPFL think the top flight can’t be finished later down the line. Of that group, only Raith Rovers in League One don’t enjoy at least a 10-point lead.

But more than league positions, many clubs are walking a financial tightrope, and ending the season now would allow prize money to be awarded and greater clarity on the future. That’s why Livingston and Ayr United, for example, have come out in support of the resolution.

Who could lose out?

Partick Thistle and Stranraer will be relegated under the current proposal, with Hearts dropping out of the top flight if the Premiership season can’t resume. Falkirk, just a point behind Raith Rovers in the race for the League One title, would be denied a chance of promotion.

But there’s also those in the lower leagues currently in the play-off positions. Given eight of the 10 Championship clubs need to back the proposal, there is very little margin for error, particularly because Partick Thistle will vote against. Ayr United say they will vote in favour, but what about Inverness CT and Dundee?

Voting for an early finish would effectively end Dundee’s hopes of promotion, and also result in city rivals Dundee United going up.

Are there other options?

Rangers think so. They said on Wednesday night they would oppose this in the “strongest possible terms” and have submitted a resolution which calls for prize money to be distributed early to clubs, including those in the Premiership, without the need for final placings to be confirmed. Hearts agree.

There is also the potential for league reconstruction to follow an early finish. The SPFL has committed to dialogue with clubs on this if the vote is carried. Some clubs previously opposed to a 14-team top flight have warmed to the idea for just one season, in order to resolve the current predicament.

The threshold to vote through league reconstruction is higher than for the current resolution. It needs 11 of the 12 Premiership clubs to vote for it, then it would take a combination of 75% of both Premiership and Championship clubs together for it to proceed to the final stage. After which, all four leagues join up where again it would be a 75% majority in favour of a change for the resolution to be passed.

What happens next?

Well, if the SPFL gets its way, the Championship along with Leagues One and Two will end. Talks on possible league reconstruction will begin, and then all eyes in the Premiership will be on the Uefa meeting on 23 April.

European football’s governing body is to make a call on whether it thinks football can resume at some stage. If it does not think it can, that will pave the way for the Premiership to end, safe in the knowledge that European places will be secured.

However, if the resolution fails then we are back to square one. The SPFL is determined to safeguard the new exclusive television deal with Sky Sports, which requires the new campaign to begin promptly. As a result, the league is likely to come back to the table with an amended proposal to ensure next term is not disrupted.