(Reuters) – Celtic have been named champions of Scotland after the clubs voted on Monday to end the season early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Scottish Professional Football League said in a statement https://spfl.co.uk/news/ladbrokes-premiership-and-spfl-season-201920-cur.

“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 Ladbrokes Premiership has been concluded with immediate effect,” the league said.

“The decision means that Celtic are crowned 2019/20 champions and Hearts have been relegated to the Ladbrokes Championship.”

Top-flight soccer in Scotland was stopped in March due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

“We would all have rather seen the league season played out on pitches, in stadiums and in front of supporters,” SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan said.

“COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on sporting competitions around the world and the repercussions will be felt for a long time.

“Scottish Government restrictions and deep concerns for both player and spectator safety left the SPFL with no realistic option but to call the Ladbrokes Premiership now and we thank the Premiership clubs for their support on this decision.”

The league statement added that final season placings were decided on a points-per-game basis in matches played to March 13.

A similar system was used to determine final positions in Scotland’s three lowest footballing tiers, which voted to end their seasons early in April.

However, the door had been left open for a resumption of the Premiership if and when possible.

Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers were declared winners of the Championship, League One and League Two and the SPFL released end-of-season payments of over 1.8 million pounds ($2.18 million) to clubs to ease their financial burden.

Top-flight Rangers, who finised runners-up, had sought an independent investigation into the SPFL’s handling of the season in the wake of the pandemic but clubs last week did not support their request.

The resolution, also backed by Hearts and Stranraer, was put forward after misgivings about how the vote on the SPFL’s plan to end the lower leagues early had been carried out.

The SPFL executive committee last week met all 12 Premiership clubs about declaring the season over and British media reported that relegated Hearts had made a final push for a revamp of the league structure.

(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Jon Boyle and Ken Ferris)

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