Scottish season in jeopardy as player breaches virus rules

AP – Scottish football was in danger of being halted by the country’s government after a Celtic player breached coronavirus rules by taking a secret trip to Spain and failing to self-isolate on his return.

The Scottish champions issued yesterday an apology and a condemnation of the actions of left back Boli Bolingoli, who played in a 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock in the league last Sunday despite only recently returning from Spain without quarantining.

“It is difficult to imagine a more irresponsible action in current circumstances,” Celtic said in a statement, “And we find it beyond explanation.”

A game between Aberdeen and St Johnstone last Saturday was postponed a day earlier after two Aberdeen players tested positive for COVID-19 and a further six were instructed to self-isolate following a night out. It led to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warning that Scottish football’s privileges to play during the safety restrictions would be at risk if a similar situation arose.

All 12 Premiership managers and captains held talks with government officials on Monday and were reminded of their responsibilities over protocols particular to football and also the general public.

Celtic’s Boli Bolingoli. PHOTO: AP

Celtic said it has taken its response to COVID-19 “extremely seriously” and has recorded no positive tests so far.

“We could have done no more in this area,” Celtic said. “It is a matter of the deepest regret to us that the behaviour of one individual has jeopardised that reputation and reflected discredit on football more generally.”

Spain was restored to the Scottish government’s list of countries from which returning travellers must quarantine themselves for 14 days following a decision on July 25, which came into effect from midnight on July 26.

Celtic said all of its playing and backroom staff have been tested twice for COVID-19 since Bolingoli’s return and that everyone has 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 club said.

Celtic said it would be getting in touch with every Scottish club and football authorities to apologise for Bolingoli’s actions.

The BBC reported yesterday that the Scottish government said it was in discussion with Celtic and governing bodies to establish the facts.

“If confirmed as another serious incident within Scottish football, where protocols have been breached at the risk of wider public health,” read a government statement reported by the BBC, “Then the Scottish government will have little choice but to consider whether a pause is now needed in the resumption of the game in Scotland.”

The new Scottish season started on August 1 after the 2019-20 campaign was called off early, in May, because there was no immediate prospect of play restarting amid the coronavirus pandemic.