The Scottish government says it has shown football a yellow card after the latest embarrassing fallout regarding breaches of coronavirus containment measures.
Scottish football’s return from a COVID-19 shutdown relies on trust; if one player lets the side down off the pitch, it affects team-mates, their club, their opponents and the league.
- Celtic, Aberdeen matches postponed
- Lennon slams ‘selfish’ Bolingoli
The game cannot afford many lapses of judgement – that is why the cases of Boli Bolingoli and the Aberdeen players have been met with such a furore, and why it is no surprise that Celtic and Aberdeen’s next two fixtures have been postponed.
“I don’t want to stand here and damn the whole of Scottish football on the actions of a minority,” Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Sky Sports News during the government’s daily media briefing.
“I hope this is not widespread. I’ve no evidence that it is. But, equally, I can’t stand here right now and be sure that it is not.”
Scottish Premiership under threat – a timeline
Sturgeon is furious and Neil Lennon, in particular, is rightly upset too. Celtic’s manager is well aware that the actions of Bolingoli, who has apologised, threaten to undermine the hard work of colleagues.
“We have led the way in working with the football authorities and Scottish government to establish the most rigorous, effective protocols and working practices,” Celtic said in a statement.
But questions will be asked about whether Celtic could, and should, have known more about Bolingoli’s whereabouts.
Could the SPFL have been temporarily shut down in its entirety, after only two rounds of games in most cases? It was surely a possibility but, for now, the majority of fixtures will take place this week.
Sturgeon has called for “collective responsibility” and wants everybody in the game to come together to ensure there is no repeat of quarantine rule breaches.
COVID-19 is not a game; it is a killer pandemic that has taken the lives of 2,491 people in Scotland.
Footballers must accept they are role models and the shameful actions of a small minority has risked severely disrupting the good work of the diligent majority.
Further breaches could produce a government red card and an even greater, more damaging, impact to the game.
Three strikes and out for Scottish football?
Sky Sports News’ Charles Paterson:
“If anything, Nicola Sturgeon is even more angry today than she was last Friday when she addressed the issue surrounding the Aberdeen players, who of course went to a bar over a week ago with two of them then testing positive for Covid-19 and six others self-isolating.
“She described that as ‘unacceptable’ then, and the message has not got through obviously to some players. Nicola Sturgeon has made a point of putting Scottish footballers on a pedestal, first of all to give it the special dispensation in order to operate in a professional environment.
“Now that there have been two high-profile breaches, she is putting it on a pedestal again to say that it is essentially two strikes now for Scottish football. A third strike and she would not have an option but to suspend Scottish football. Footballers in this country are role models to the general public, but they are not obeying the rules in the government’s view and that is simply not good enough.
- Celtic fixtures – latest schedule
“This creates a major fixture pile-up for Celtic. With these two games postponed, their next scheduled game is the Champions League qualifier next weekend against KR Reykjavik, and there has to be a question mark over that. UEFA will need to make a decision over that, and the Scottish government might have something to say about that too.
“The next scheduled SPFL game is August 22, with Celtic going to Dundee United. By then, they could be some way behind Rangers and other teams in the Premiership, so this is a major headache for Neil Lennon and for Celtic.
“But I think this is an embarrassment, more than anything, for Celtic at the moment.”
Celtic apologise, Lennon blasts Bolingoli
Celtic boss Neil Lennon strongly condemned Boli Bolingoli’s “selfish” behaviour after his trip to Spain resulted in Celtic’s next two Premiership fixtures being postponed.
Speaking to the media at a news conference, Lennon did not hold back when questioned about the incident, saying: “Unbeknown to us until yesterday, Bolingoli took a flight to Spain on the Monday and then flew back in on the Tuesday. One day in Spain, there’s no logic in that.
“And then decided to keep it to himself, didn’t tell anybody, trained all week, put everybody at risk in this bubble that we have created here and then obviously was a part of the squad, played on Sunday, put everybody at risk – the Kilmarnock players as well, the Kilmarnock staff – and then obviously the story broke yesterday and then he came clean.
“In terms of club responsibility, we have apologised to all the other clubs in the division and the footballing support as a whole.
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