Kilmarnock forfeit Betfred Cup game against Falkirk with first team in isolation
Kilmarnock have forfeited their Betfred Cup opener against Falkirk after deciding not to throw their under-18s into the fixture and failing with a request to reschedule the game.
Killie only have a small pool of youth-team players available after their entire first-team squad were instructed to self-isolate in the wake of six positive coronavirus cases.
Their game against Motherwell was postponed on Friday but will be played at a later date if Killie are cleared of any major errors in their health and safety protocols.
But the Scottish Professional Football League has different rules available if teams cannot fulfil Betfred Cup fixtures and the league’s board has awarded Falkirk a 3-0 victory in the opening Group E fixture.
An SPFL spokesman said: “In anticipation of the enormous pressure on fixtures this season, the board made clear last month that teams unable or unwilling to field a team in a Betfred Cup round-one group-stage tie, will forfeit the match on the basis of a 3-0 defeat.
“We have enormous sympathy for players and clubs which are unable to fulfil the fixtures on the scheduled date, but, given the unprecedented challenges facing the game this year, we must maintain the clear position outlined last month in relation to the Betfred Cup first round group stage. Accordingly, Falkirk have been awarded a 3-0 win in the tie.”
Kilmarnock said they had approached the board with a series of alternative dates with their only other option to field a team of under-18s.
Manager Alex Dyer said: “We have a duty of care for the physical and emotional well-being of our young players and that’s something we take extremely seriously.
“Everyone at Kilmarnock FC takes great pride in the work carried out by the academy staff and the boys performed exceptionally well to reach the Youth Cup final prior to the Covid shutdown.
“Blooding youngsters into the first-team environment carefully and at the right time is something that I believe in but, as manager, I did not feel comfortable fielding an entire team of teenagers, all of whom have no first-team experience while very few have sampled reserve football.
“While forfeiting the match is not an easy decision to make in my opinion, it would not be right to play the game as scheduled against such experienced opposition as it could be detrimental not only to the young players themselves but also to the sporting integrity of the competition.”
Killie added that no decision had yet been taken over their second group game at home to Dunfermline on October 13.
Meanwhile, Scottish sports minister Joe FitzPatrick has promised to work closely with the Scottish football authorities to help steer the game through the effects of the pandemic following fresh talks.
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster and Scottish Football Association vice-president Mike Mulraney both claimed on Saturday that the decision to keep fans out of grounds was “political”.
FitzPatrick said: “I made it clear to the Joint Response Group that the Scottish Government is fully aware this has been an enormously challenging time for the sporting sector and the pandemic has put a real financial strain on many sporting organisations.
“I particularly appreciate the economic impact on football clubs of the delay of the return of spectators to stadia.
“I appreciate the support of clubs, their supporters and football authorities over the past months in helping us tackle the effects of the pandemic. However, the virus has not gone away and we all need to keep working to protect the NHS and public services, and help keep people safe.
“The Scottish Government will continue to work closely with the governing bodies of football to ensure its long-term sustainability.
“Last week I met UK Minister for Sport, Heritage and Tourism Nigel Huddleston MP to discuss the financial package being developed by the UK Government to support those sporting organisations which are most affected by a delay of the return of spectators to stadia. We are still awaiting clarity on Barnett consequential funding to Scotland as a result of the UK Government scheme.”