Andy Walker: What an embarrassing start to the new Scottish football season

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

Celtic's Boli Bolingoli with manager Neil Lennon as he comes on as a substitute for Greg Taylor against Kilmarnock
Image: Celtic's Boli Bolingoli broke quarantine rules after travelling to Spain, days after Aberdeen players tested positive for coronavirus virus following a bar visit

What an embarrassing start to the new Scottish football season.

We are one of the few European leagues playing at the moment and I was looking forward to our players and clubs being at the forefront of a bigger audience than normal and showing everyone how strong, entertaining and competitive our game can be.

It has quickly descended into a farce.

Eight Aberdeen players were together in a restaurant following their opening-day defeat to Rangers with two of them contracting Covid-19, meaning the other six were forced to self-isolate for 14 days, a clear breach of the government guidelines.

It was headline-making drama and so high-profile it must have hammered home to every club and every player just how delicate it was for Scottish football to resume after five months of patience and sacrifice.

Scottish Premiership under threat - a timeline

  • Aug 1: Scottish Premiership season starts. Aberdeen lose opener 1-0 to Rangers. Eight players visit Aberdeen city centre bar after the defeat.
  • Aug 5: Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announces lockdown measures to be reimposed in Aberdeen after spike in coronavirus cases.
  • Aug 7: Aberdeen's match at St Johnstone called off at request of government after two Dons players test positive for coronavirus after bar visit on Aug 1 that breached social distancing rules. Six more players ordered to self-isolate.
  • Aug 8: Eight Aberdeen players - Jonny Hayes, Michael Devlin, Scott McKenna, Matty Kennedy, Sam Cosgrove, Dylan McGeouch, Craig Bryson and Bruce Anderson - issue apology for bar visit.
  • Aug 8: Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths reminded of responsibilities after hosting birthday party for his girlfriend that breached government guidelines.
  • Aug 11: Scottish government threatens to to 'pause' Premiership after news that Celtic's Boli Bolingoli broke quarantine rules. Celtic blast 'irresponsible' Bolingoli and apologise to all clubs.
  • Aug 11: Following talks between SPFL and Scottish government, Sturgeon says Celtic, Aberdeen fans should not expect to see their sides play in coming week.
  • Aug 11: Scottish football's Joint Response Group confirms that Aberdeen and Celtic's next two Premiership matches have been postponed.

It beggared belief to hear of Celtic's Belgian full-back Boli Bolingoli display an astonishing arrogance and utter contempt for everyone else when he secretly flew to Spain for a day before returning to Scotland without self-isolating and coming on as a sub in the 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock.

His carefree and careless attitude put players on both sides at risk.

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As a result, the Scottish government stepped in last Friday to postpone St Johnstone vs Aberdeen on Saturday, St Mirren vs Celtic and Aberdeen vs Hamilton due to be played on Wednesday night and the clash in Glasgow this weekend between Celtic and Aberdeen.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been briefing the Scottish Assembly on the country's next coronavirus steps 2:44
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned of the postponements before official confirmation came

Eight players at Aberdeen had Covid-19 issues and no one thought it was wise to postpone this fixture? Government intervention quickly ensured the game was off.

Despite Bolingoli's act of selfishness, the SPFL were still reluctant to cancel Celtic's game in Paisley and Hamilton were encouraged to travel to the city of Aberdeen where a huge spike in cases has been highlighted over the last 10 days or so.

I totally accept it's going to be a tight season to cram all the fixtures in but the safety of everyone surrounding a football match has to be the priority.

I listened to the National Clinical Director Jason Leitch saying on Tuesday that he still had concerns about the attitudes of players towards the guidelines. He could easily have highlighted some clubs' dubious approach too.

5:46
Falkirk head coach Lee Miller talks about the high-profile cases of coronavirus rules being broken by some Aberdeen players and Celtic's Boli Bolingoli, and also reviews the Scottish Premiership

Before the issues with Bolingoli and the Aberdeen players, Rangers played a pre-season friendly against Dundee Utd and there was a question mark about the validity of some of the Rangers players' test results.

The friendly against Motherwell later the same day was delayed by a couple of hours because of a hold up with lab test results before it eventually went ahead.

St Mirren's friendly with St Johnstone was cancelled at short notice when seven of the Paisley staff returned inconclusive tests.

Celtic defender Boli Bolingoli 1:29
The Scottish Government's national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch says the players who have broken the rules have risked the health of the public

Ross County were furious when they had arranged a pre-season game with Hibs in Edinburgh but the game couldn't go ahead after Hibs didn't get their test results back in time.

The Scottish Premiership was given special dispensation to resume on the condition that strict testing protocols were followed.

Granted, our game is not awash with money but you got the feeling too many clubs were not taking events seriously enough and there was certainly not enough leadership from a higher authority.

Over the last few months we've watched Scottish football tear itself apart with relationships between certain clubs shattered beyond repair.

Right now, too many of them have given the impression that they're not taking their privilege of being able to return to work as seriously as they should be. Fans are investing in their thousands with no live football on show. They deserve so much more.

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