Football/Soccer

Celtic's nine-in-a-row moves a step closer after SPFL vote

Rangers are trailing Celtic and the Hoops are likely to be confirmed as nine-in-a-row champions of Scotland sooner or later.

CELTIC'S second nine-in-a-row moved a step closer after champions were confirmed in the three divisions below the Scottish Premiership.

Despite strenuous objections from Rangers and Hearts, among others, Scottish clubs have voted to end the Scottish Professional Football League season outside the top-flight with immediate effect.

The announcement comes after Dundee reversed an earlier intention to reject the proposals, thus achieving the numbers required for the motion to pass.

Dundee had initially submitted an electronic 'no' vote but it did not reach the SPFL and the club only realised when the league announced the results on Friday.

The Dark Blues' city rivals Dundee United have been confirmed as winners of the Championship and could take the place of Hearts in the Premiership if the Edinburgh outfit, currently in bottom place, are demoted.

However, Hearts owner Ann Budge will now lead a task force to look into the possibility of expanding the top flight for next season.

The most likely option would be an expansion to 14 teams, ensuring Hearts avoided relegation, and Dundee United and Inverness Caledonian Thistle were promoted.

A potential knock-on effect of the expansion - which would require a 11-1 vote in favour among Premiership clubs - could be the promotion of the respective Highland and Lowland League champions, Brora Rangers and Kelty Hearts, into League Two.

Celtic are 13 points clear of Rangers at the top of the SPL, although the Ibrox outfit did have a game in hand when the coronavirus crisis forced football to come to a halt in Scotland last month.

In a statement the SPFL said: "The SPFL has announced that the directors' written resolution ending season 2019/20 in the Ladbrokes Championship, Ladbrokes League One and Ladbrokes League Two, has been passed with agreement by 81 per cent of all members.

"The announcement comes after the remaining Ladbrokes Championship club signified their agreement to the resolution today, resulting in Dundee United FC being declared champions of the Ladbrokes Championship, Raith Rovers FC being declared champions of Ladbrokes League One, and Cove Rangers FC being declared champions of Ladbrokes League Two."

SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan said: "With the turmoil and uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, there was always going to be a highly-charged and passionate debate about how we secure the future of Scottish football.

"It is no exaggeration to say that this was an existential matter for Scottish clubs, with many of them telling us they were at real risk of going under unless the situation was resolved very quickly, so I'm pleased that the game has moved decisively.

"Whilst more than 80 per cent of clubs agreed with the directors' written resolution, it's clear that others were strongly opposed.

"There has been talk of voiding the season, making emergency loans and so on, but what has been agreed today is not just the best way forward, it was the only realistic way forward and I now call on all 42 clubs to move forward in a constructive and positive way."

League One bottom club Stranraer, one of two sides along with Partick Thistle to have their relegation confirmed as a result of the decision, described it as "grossly unfair".

In a statement the club said: "At this unprecedented time we felt unanimously as a committee that no football club, Stranraer FC or any other, should be at a detriment due to this horrendous situation.

"It is grossly unfair that any club should be relegated from their respective league whilst a quarter of the season still remains.

"We strongly felt that at this time more than any other that Scottish football should demonstrate the absolute philosophy of real 'sporting integrity' in order to ensure a collective responsibility to all member clubs."

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Football/Soccer