HM Insights

What does the Belgian football league's decision to end season say to the Scottish game?

As every major football league in Europe considers what to do about the current season, the Belgian Pro League has become the first to cancel the remainder of its games.

The league's decision will see leaders Club Brugges, who were 15 points clear at the top, declared champions as the league table will stand as it was when games stopped.

While the decision will only be made official later this month, with relegation and promotion still to be decided, it is the first of a series of decisions made around the continent. It remains to be seen exactly how the Belgian league's member clubs will react to the decision.

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Will the Scottish football governing bodies follow suit?

At present there is no clear indication of what is likely to happen in Scotland. There is no doubt that the decision that the Scottish football authorities, the SFA and SPFL, are wrestling with, will be a decision that simply cannot keep everyone happy and it will not be met with universal approval.

If the decision were to follow the Belgian Pro League example, the decision may well lead to disputes and ramifications for years to come.

Should disputes arise, both the SFA and SPFL have the unenviable task of working out how they can deliver a timeous sport specific dispute resolution method as per the SFA's Articles of Association and the rules of the SPFL.

Football, and sport in general, likes to use sports specific dispute resolution methods. However, in a situation such as this, if an early resolution to any dispute is not provided, then parties may well need to have recourse to the courts. The courts, like the governing bodies themselves, are currently working to reduced capacity but are available for urgent and exceptional applications, which would include any that are time bound.

In terms of any declarations deciding league titles and potential relegations, placings in leagues and corresponding consequences, or following rugby's examples and declaring leagues null and void, finance and sporting integrity will weigh heavily on those charged with making those decisions.

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