Football warned not to abuse privileges after Celtic trip
Slip-ups: Celtic boss Neil Lennon (pic: SNS Group)
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned football not to abuse its privileges after Celtic’s trip to a training camp in Dubai drew growing criticism.
The Scottish Government added the country to its travel quarantine list and Ms Sturgeon said she had doubts about whether the trip was really necessary.
Defender Christopher Jullien tested positive for coronavirus following the controversial training camp in the UAE, with three members of staff including manager Neil Lennon and No. 2 John Kennedy along with 13 players having to self-isolate ahead of tonight’s league clash with Hibs.
Although the club expects to escape legal action because elite sport is considered exempt, there are calls for the authorities to get tough on Celtic and football in general.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Everyone, including football, should be erring on the side of caution” amid a rise in infections.”
“This whole episode should underline how serious the situation we are in right now is and why everyone – including football – should be erring on the side of caution.
“I know fans of other clubs feel very strongly that the whole of football should not pay the price for the actions of any one club, whoever they may be, and I agree with that.
“Of course, a situation like this does make it essential for us to review the rules, including around travel exemptions, and that is what we will be doing. But, as we do, I would hope Celtic themselves will reflect seriously on all of this.”
Former First Minister Henry McLeish said football had to adopt greater responsibility and called for the Scottish Football Association and SPFL to look at what sanctions should be imposed on Celtic.
“Celtic should not have gone on this trip,” he said. “This sends all the wrong signals You cannot have rules for one and different rules for the other.
“This was an ill-timed judgement that was not sending the right messages. In the midst of a pandemic this was not only a ridiculous decision, it was foolish and one that has proved to be dangerous in terms of people getting Covid and having to isolate.
“Scottish football has got to give a lead. They often argue that government should do this or do that, but at the end of the day Scottish football must show responsibility.
“The Scottish FA and the SPFL should be looking at this very very closely to send a powerful message that it shouldn’t happen again and to see what kind of sanctions can be imposed on Celtic.”
Celtic’s self-isolation order came after discussions with Holyrood and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to identify any close contacts of Jullien.
With the new quarantine rule coming into effect at 4am today, travellers returning from Dubai must self-isolate for 10 days. The rule will also apply retrospectively for passengers who have travelled to Scotland from Dubai since Sunday, 3 January.
Celtic returned to Glasgow on Friday, at which point the travelling party was tested for Covid-19.
The change was made due to the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country – Dubai reported 5055 new positive cases on Friday.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “It is evident, both in Scotland and in countries across the world, that the virus continues to pose real risks to health and to life and we need to interrupt the rise in cases.
“Imposing quarantine requirements on those arriving in the UK is our first defence in managing the risk of imported cases from communities with high risks of transmission. That is why we have made the decision to remove Dubai from the country exemptions list.
“Whether or not an overseas destination has been designated for quarantine restrictions, our message remains clear that people should not currently be undertaking non-essential foreign travel.
“People need to stay at home to help suppress the virus, protect our NHS and save lives.”
Celtic assistant Kennedy admitted there were “minor slip-ups” following the coronavirus guidelines while in Dubai.
Ms Sturgeon was among those who criticised the Parkhead outfit for going ahead with the camp while the country is in the grip of a pandemic.
Celtic bosses insist the Scottish Government sanctioned the Dubai camp, while national clinical director, professor Jason Leitch, stressed the club didn’t break any rules with their trip abroad two days before the current lockdown began.
A depleted Celtic side were held to a 1-1 draw against Hibs tonight after Kevin Nisbet struck in stoppage time to level for the visitors and take them to within a point of third-place Aberdeen.
David Turnbull opened the scoring for the hosts who are now 21 points behind Rangers following their defeat of 10-man Aberdeen 2-1 at Pittodrie on Sunday.
Alfredo Morelos netted a goal in each half for the visitors, who also missed a penalty after Ryan Hedges’ 26th-minute dismissal. Matthew Kennedy pulled one back for the Dons.