Coronavirus: Sturgeon issues 'yellow card' to Scottish football as Celtic games postponed

11 August 2020, 16:34

Nicola Sturgeon has issued a "yellow card" to football bosses over coronavirus breaches
Nicola Sturgeon has issued a "yellow card" to football bosses over coronavirus breaches. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Nicola Sturgeon is demanding that Celtic and Aberdeen Scottish Premiership matches be called off over players breaching coronavirus guidelines.

The First Minister said that some footballers seem "incapable of living up to their responsibility" in helping stop the spread of the virus and issued a "yellow card" to football bosses.

Reacting to reports that Celtic defender Boli Bolingoli had breached coronavirus guidelines by flying to Spain and not quarantining on return, she said that "next time it will be a red card" and hinted at government intervention if clubs could not get a grip on the situation.

At the Covid-19 daily briefing, she said: "Every day I stand here and 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 just deciding that they're not going to bother.

"I want to get to a situation where clubs and players live up to their responsibilities, because I don't want the price of this to be paid by fans who want to watch football.

"I don't want the price of this to be paid by football players and clubs who are living up to their responsibilities [either].

Read more: Scottish sports fans could be back in grounds by mid-September

Shortly after the announcement, several Scottish Premiership matches were postponed.

On Wednesday, Celtic were due to play St Mirren and Abderdeen scheduled to play Hamilton.

On Saturday, both Celtic and Aberdeen were due to go head to head.

Announcing the postponement Rod Petrie, chair of the Scottish Football Association's Joint Response Group, said: "The Joint Response Group has acted swiftly and decisively in addressing the latest concerns raised by the minister on behalf of Scottish Government.

"While the decision to postpone these games is deeply regrettable nevertheless in the circumstances it is unavoidable and uncontestable.

“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."

Celtic and Aberdeen games have been postponed after Boli Bolingoli breached Covid-19 guidelines
Celtic and Aberdeen games have been postponed after Boli Bolingoli breached Covid-19 guidelines. Picture: PA Images

Celtic have "unreservedly" condemned Bolingoli and apologised for his actions.

A statement from the club said: "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."

The First Minister warned that if clubs did not improve that government intervention in the Scottish Premiership could be required.