COWDENBEATH and the area's non-league clubs will be out of action for three weeks after the Scottish Football Association announced a three-week suspension of matches.

Following a meeting of the governing body's board last night, football beneath the SPFL Championship will be stopped for three weeks in response to the rising numbers of Covid-19 across the country.

From midnight tonight, SPFL League One and League Two - featuring the Blue Brazil - the Lowland League, where Kelty Hearts are sitting top, and the East of Scotland League will all be halted.

That means that, until at least January 31, there will also be no football for Hill of Beath Hawthorn, Dundonald Bluebell, Crossgates Primrose, Lochgelly Albert and Lochore Welfare.

Scottish Cup fixtures are also affected, with any due to be played prior to February 1 due to be rearranged.

That means Cowden's trip to Partick Thistle tomorrow evening is now off.

Other leagues that will be stopped include the West and South of Scotland leagues, the Scottish Junior FA leagues, the North Caldeonian League, and the Scottish Women's Football Premier Leagues One and Two.

The SFA said that, while updated Scottish Government guidance permits the continuation of professional sport, the meeting - which followed a Joint Response Group discussion on Friday - considered their decision "in the interests of public health, taking cognisance of the government’s wish to reduce travel and possible contact with others whilst safeguarding commercial broadcasting contracts that sustain the professional game".

The SPFL Premiership are exempt from the suspension, provided it continues to adhere to stringent testing protocols, whilst the Championship can continue if it commences weekly testing.

The suspension, which will be reviewed on a rolling basis by the SFA in partnership with the Scottish Government, also applies to Scottish Cup fixtures.

SFA president, Rod Petrie, said: "The Scottish FA is well aware of the efforts all clubs take to comply with the exacting protocols that were conditional on elite football being given an exemption to continue amid the pandemic.

"None the less the continuation of football at all levels has weighed increasingly heavy on me as President, my colleagues on the board and the Joint Response Group as we have watched the new strain of the virus spread rapidly.

"While the national sport has been afforded the privilege of elite sporting exemption, the risk of mass transportation of untested, largely part-time players is something that cannot be sustained as the cases continue to rise and available hospital beds become increasingly scarce.

"After discussions with the SPFL, the Premiership and Championship will continue on the proviso that both adhere to the existing testing regime. The vast majority of teams in those divisions are full-time professional clubs and so the risk of transmission remains manageably low. The cost implications to lower-division clubs was one factor but so too the realisation that many – with some notable exceptions – consist of part-time players who are either prevented from working due to the virus or have to work.

"In either case, the risk is currently too great amid the developing nationwide spread of the virus.

"Much has been said of football’s relationship with the Scottish Government during the pandemic. As President of the Scottish FA and Chair of the Joint Response Group, I am grateful for the clinical expertise provided by government specifically to football and for the timely award of £30m in grant and loan funding for the game. 

"We reiterate our commitment to playing our part in the collective effort to eradicate the virus."