Celtic declared champions as Scottish season is ended

Kieran CANNING
AFP
Celtic were crowned champions of Scotland for a ninth straight season on Monday (AFP Photo/Tiziana FABI )
Celtic were crowned champions of Scotland for a ninth straight season on Monday (AFP Photo/Tiziana FABI )

London (AFP) - Celtic were crowned champions for a record-equalling ninth consecutive season as the Scottish Premiership campaign was declared over on Monday.

Neil Lennon's men were 13 points clear at the top of the table when the season was stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic in March with eight games remaining for the majority of clubs.

Second-placed Rangers had a game in hand to try and cut that gap and were due to face Celtic twice more before the end of the season.

"It is, of course, a real shame that we were not able to see out the league in front of our fans. However, no one can deny how deserved this title is," said Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell.

A ninth consecutive title matches the record set by Celtic's European Cup-winning side of the sixties and seventies and Rangers' dominant team that won nine in a row between 1988 and 1997.

"To be sitting here now as the manager of the nine in a row, and having played a huge part in that, fills me with so much pride," said Lennon, who has been in charge for five of the nine straight titles.

"It feels wonderful and I'm so proud of the players. It's an incredible record and to be part of that is something very special, and I think it's thoroughly deserved as well."

- Legal action? -

A points-per-game formula for determining final league placings also sees bottom club Hearts relegated unless there is any progress in talks over league reconstruction.

Premiership clubs have previously rejected proposals for reconstruction, but Hearts said they will put forward a new resolution and warned they may take legal action if it is rejected.

"Legal action would be both time consuming and expensive. However the cost to the club of relegation would outweigh these considerations," Hearts said in a statement.

The three leagues below the Premiership were ended over a month ago when clubs passed a controversial resolution that allowed the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) board to also bring the top flight to a halt if it deemed the games could no longer be played.

Last week Rangers failed to gain support of the 42 member clubs for an independent inquiry into how the vote on the resolution was passed.

Premiership clubs agreed on Friday that finishing the season was no longer a realistic option.

Scottish clubs will not be allowed to return to training until June 10 at the earliest.

The cost of testing and the fact a high percentage of players will be out of contract in May and June were also highlighted by clubs as reasons why making a return to finishing the campaign was impractical.

"The SPFL has today announced that, following consultation with all 12 top-flight clubs, the Board of the SPFL has determined that the 2019/20 Premiership has been concluded with immediate effect," the league said in a statement.

By calling the season to an end, the SPFL can now release a final instalment of prize money to clubs based on their league position.

"This decision now enables us to pay out around £7 million ($8.5 million) in fees to help clubs stay afloat during this incredibly difficult time," said SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster.

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