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Kilmarnock and St Mirren unimpressed by SPFL punishment

Kilmarnock file photo
(Image credit: Jeff Holmes)

Kilmarnock have hit out at the Scottish Professional Football League’s approach after they and St Mirren were consigned to defeats following breaches of coronavirus protocols.

Motherwell have been awarded 3-0 victories over both clubs and St Mirren have also been handed a 3-0 defeat by Hamilton after a Scottish Professional Football League disciplinary tribunal made its long-awaited ruling.

A sub-committee of the SPFL board, chaired by an independent senior solicitor and involving a sheriff “highly experienced in sports disputes”, heard both clubs’ cases on November 10-11 after Covid-19 outbreaks forced the postponement of three league matches in October.

An SPFL statement declared that Kilmarnock had admitted breaches including a failure to implement the necessary physical distancing on a coach to an away game and during a pre-match meal.

St Mirren admitted the same breaches plus “failing to provide suitable facilities to enable players to observe physical distancing at training”. The written verdict revealed that 10 players were sharing an eight-metre bench. Saints also accepted that players had been car-sharing to and from training with up to four in one vehicle.

Both clubs were also handed suspended £40,000 fines.

After discussions with their lawyers, Kilmarnock explained why they felt so aggrieved with the findings and called for the league to update its guidelines “as a matter of urgency”.

A club statement read: “In relation to the two issues outlined by the tribunal: the club more than followed what it considered was appropriate, which was the 1m Scottish Government physical distancing guidelines for hospitality venues and in regards to coach travel, the policies and procedures also aligned with what we considered to be Scottish Government protocols. Unfortunately the tribunal did not agree with this interpretation.”

Killie added: “Given we remain in the midst of a global pandemic with restrictions reimposed across the country, we always saw this an opportunity for the football authorities to review their handling of Covid-related issues and update their guidance in light of increased knowledge around the virus and encourage a culture of sharing best practice across football.

“Instead, we feel that Kilmarnock FC and other clubs have been subjected to sanctions-based approach by the SPFL, which has proved costly, time consuming and caused considerable stress to all involved.”

St Mirren earlier declared their “disappointment” and added: “The club operated honestly throughout the whole process and will review its position before issuing a further response.”

The decision moved Motherwell up three places to fifth spot in the Premiership, five points off the top four. Bottom club Hamilton drew level with St Mirren on 11 points.

An SPFL spokesman said that “strict adherence” to the Covid-19 regulations was “crucially important” to allow the season to be completed.

He added: “We note the admission by each of Kilmarnock and St Mirren that they breached SPFL regulations and commend both clubs for the measures that their boards have recently put in place to avoid a repeat of the circumstances that led to the postponement of these matches in October.”

Kilmarnock’s home game against Motherwell was postponed on October 2 after their entire first-team squad were ordered to self-isolate following six positive cases.

They were handed a 3-0 Betfred Cup defeat against Falkirk the following week – automatically under the competition rules – after deciding not to utilise their youth-team squad.

St Mirren saw two players test positive and a third told to self-isolate at the start of the week leading up to the scheduled visit of Motherwell on October 17. A further positive test prompted the game to be postponed inside three hours of kick-off after St Mirren told the SPFL they only had eight outfield players and four goalkeepers.

After further positive tests the following week, St Mirren only had 11 players available and the visit of Hamilton was called off on the Friday evening. The verdict revealed that nine players and two staff members in total tested positive.

Boli Bolingoli went to Spain and back without telling Celtic

Boli Bolingoli went to Spain and back without telling Celtic (Jeff Holmes/PA)

The SPFL previously issued immediate £8,000 fines to Celtic and Aberdeen after a total of five games were postponed on the orders of the Scottish Government following breaches of coronavirus rules by players.

Eight Aberdeen players were instructed to self-isolate, and two of them caught Covid-19, following a night out. Celtic’s Boli Bolingoli played against Kilmarnock days after failing to quarantine following a secret trip to Spain.

At the time, the league stated that both clubs had “gone to enormous lengths” to ensure their players adhered to all the rules.