Red card warning to football
Angry Sturgeon halts Celtic and Dons games over Covid breach
Disregard: Bolingoli came on as a sub at Kilmarnock (pic: SNS Group)
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that Celtic and Aberdeen will not play their scheduled Premiership games this week after Parkhead star Boli Bolingoli’s “flagrant” breach of quarantine rules.
The defender played in his side’s league match against Kilmarnock at the weekend when he should have been self-isolating after a trip to Spain which was made without the club’s knowledge.
This latest breach comes after eight Aberdeen players broke lockdown regulations by visiting a bar together in the wake of their clash with Rangers at Pittodrie.
A furious First Minister could not conceal her anger at the latest disregard of the rules, saying: “What I regret is some football players seem incapable of living up to their responsibilities.
“My frustration about the Aberdeen Football Club situation was pretty palpable, one of the things we decided to do was dispatch Jason (Leitch) to talk to the managers and captains of our football clubs to reinforce the importance of the guidance that was put in place.
“When that meeting was taking place, the news came through of the Celtic player who decided to go to Spain, come home, not quarantine and play part of a match. In other words, flagrantly breaching the guidelines.
“This is just not acceptable. Every day I ask members of the public to make huge sacrifices in how they live their lives and the vast majority of members of the public are doing that and it’s not easy.
“We can’t have privileged football players deciding they’re not going to bother. This can’t go on.”
There were fears the football season could be halted after just two games and the First Minister added: “I don’t want the price of this to be paid by fans who want to watch football even though they can’t go as normal to spectate in stadiums and I don’t want the price of this to be paid by football players and clubs who are living up to their responsibilities.
“I don’t want the season to be in jeopardy for the reasons I’ve just set out because I don’t want people not responsible for this to pay the price but we have to be clear that this is not acceptable.
Furious: Nicola Sturgeon
“At a minimum, you should not be expecting to see Aberdeen or Celtic play over the course of the coming week and we’ll set out conclusions beyond that.
“Consider today the yellow card, the next time it will be the red card.”
Celtic were due to play St Mirren in Paisley tomorrow before hosting Aberdeen on Saturday. The Dons were scheduled to take on Hamilton at Pittodrie tomorrow. All these matches are now off.
A statement from Celtic said: “Celtic Football Club unreservedly condemns and apologises for the behaviour of the player Boli Bolingoli in travelling to Spain without informing the club and in failing to observe quarantine restrictions.
“It is difficult to imagine a more irresponsible action in current circumstances and we find it beyond explanation. The club will take immediate action through our own disciplinary procedures.
“Celtic are in touch with every SPFL club today, and with all relevant authorities, to apologise for the fact that one of our employees has created so much additional difficulty through his actions.
“All of our playing and backroom staff have been tested twice for Covid-19 since this incident and all, including the player in question, have tested negative. While this comes as a relief to all concerned, it in no way diminishes the seriousness or stupidity of the player’s actions.
“Since the Covid -19 crisis began, we have had a safe and healthy squad of players, recording not one positive test. As a club, we have worked tirelessly to ensure a sustained, safe environment for all.
“We have led the way in working with the football authorities and Scottish Government to establish the most rigorous, effective protocols and working practices, which ultimately led to the resumption of football. We could have done no more in this area.
“It is a matter of the deepest regret to us that the behaviour of one individual has jeopardised that reputation and reflected discredit on football more generally.”
Bolingoli has apologised for his actions, saying he was “guilty of an error of judgement” but manager Neil Lennon said: “This is a rogue who has gone off tangent and has done something very very selfish.
“We have been bitterly let down by an individual. I didn’t want to hear his excuse. He has blatantly disregarded our instructions. We have been completely oblivious to this. I’m absolutely livid it’s a total betrayal of our trust.”