St Mirren vs Celtic, Aberdeen vs Hamilton and Celtic vs Aberdeen postponed; decision comes after Celtic's Boli Bolingoli broke quarantine rules days after Aberdeen players tested positive for coronavirus following bar visit
Tuesday 11 August 2020 19:39, UK
Celtic and Aberdeen's next two Premiership games have been postponed after high-profile breaches of coronavirus quarantine rules.
The move comes after Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused players of being "incapable of living up to their responsibilities", after Celtic's Boli Bolingoli broke coronavirus quarantine rules before playing in their 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock on Sunday.
Bolingoli travelled to Spain ahead of the match and did not quarantine on his return - something the club were unaware of until after the game. It came just days after Aberdeen's trip to St Johnstone was called off due to two of their players testing positive for coronavirus.
Eight Dons players later issued public apologies for breaking guidelines by visiting a bar following their opening-day defeat to Rangers on August 1.
Celtic were due to face St Mirren on Wednesday, with Aberdeen scheduled to host Hamilton on the same day.
However, both matches have now been postponed - as has Saturday's meeting between Celtic and Aberdeen, following discussions between the Scottish government and the SPFL's Joint Response Group.
Chair of the 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.
"We agree wholeheartedly with the unequivocal message relayed to managers and captains by the National Clinical Director for Scotland, Professor Jason Leitch, last night. Clubs and players are in no doubt that there is now no more margin for error and no more scope for further breaches."
The SPFL's chief executive Neil Doncaster added: "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.
"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."
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned clubs that the 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.
"We'll set out the conclusion of the talks later today but as a minimum, you should not expect to see Aberdeen or Celtic play over the course of the coming week.
"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."
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.
"We were absolutely livid, appalled. The club have been at the forefront of maintaining good practice, the protocols all in place, trying to get the game up and running and we have been bitterly and sorely let down by the selfish actions of one individual."
Celtic had earlier issued a lengthy statement in which they "unreservedly condemned" Bolingoli's conduct. The Hoops confirmed they were in touch with every SPFL club to apologise.
St Mirren chief executive Tony Fitzpatrick has warned Scottish football not to "shoot itself in the foot" after his side's game on Wednesday against Celtic was pushed back.
St Mirren experienced a scare ahead of the start of the season when it appeared that seven members of their staff had tested positive for the coronavirus, before a re-examination found that just one coach was suffering from the illness.
"We've learned at first hand within our club the importance of the testing regimen and 100% adherence to all social distancing and hygiene protocols," Fitzpatrick said.
"It is bitterly disappointing that our game tomorrow has been postponed, but it underlines the hugely damaging consequences of even one player disregarding the new rules. We absolutely support the stance of the SFA and the SPFL in this matter.
"These necessary steps are there to protect our game, our players and the very future of every single club in the country.
"The stakes could not be higher and that is why as a club we will be constantly reinforcing the need for personal responsibility and vigilance. The Scottish game simply cannot afford to shoot itself in the foot."
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.
"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."