August 12 – Scottish top-flight football has been plunged into turmoil just days after the start of the new season with Celtic and Aberdeen both having their next two matches postponed after players broke Covid-19 quarantine rules.
The move comes as Scotland’s leading politician, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (pictured), accused the players involved of being “incapable of living up to their responsibilities” after Celtic’s Belgian defender Boli Bolingoli played in a 1-1 draw at Kilmarnock on Sunday without quarantining on his return from Spain where he had travelled without informing the club.
Bolingoli’s breach of the rules came after Aberdeen’s trip to St Johnstone was called off due to two of their players testing positive for COVID-19, with no fewer than six others self-isolating.
Celtic were due to face St Mirren on Wednesday, with Aberdeen scheduled to host Hamilton on the same day. But they were called off when the Scottish government threatened to ‘pause’ the Premiership – as has Saturday’s clash between Celtic and Aberdeen themselves.
The Scottish Professional Football League’s chief executive Neil Doncaster did not mince his words.
“We have only been able to restart matches thanks to the enormous efforts and sacrifices of literally thousands of people across the Scottish game. For anyone to put that in jeopardy in such a thoughtless and selfish manner is just beyond belief,” said Doncaster.
“The vast majority of players and officials who have strictly observed the necessary restrictions will rightly see this as a real kick in the teeth. Everyone knows that this season’s fixture schedule is already horrendously tight without having to reschedule matches because of the irresponsible actions of a handful of players.”
The chairman of the Scottish Professional Football League’s Joint Response Group, Rod Petrie, warned clubs there would be “no more scope” for further breaches.
“While the decision to postpone these games is deeply regrettable nevertheless in the circumstances it is unavoidable and uncontestable,” he said.
“The JRG members were astounded to learn of the recklessness demonstrated by Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo in his breach of government public health guidance and football protocols. We echo the sentiments of Celtic FC in their condemnatory statement and commend the club’s swiftness in opening a disciplinary investigation.
“That this comes on the back of eight Aberdeen players showing similar disregard for public health is disrespectful not just to every football team-mate, fellow player and colleague but also to every fan in this country. It is also hugely damaging to the image, reputation and sustainability of the game.
“We sympathise with the position this puts the Scottish Government in as the country is tentatively easing its way out of lockdown restrictions.
Sturgeon warned the entire Premiership season could be suspended if there are further breaches of coronavirus protocols.
“I don’t want the season to be in jeopardy. I don’t want people who are not responsible for this to pay the price but we have to be very clear that this situation is not acceptable,” she said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Sturgeon said the incident involving Bolingoli was a “flagrant breach” of the guidelines. “What I regret is some football players seem incapable of living up to their responsibilities,” she said.
“By putting this as clearly as I can in language that the football world will understand, consider today the yellow card. The next time it will be the red card because you will leave us with absolutely no choice.”
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