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Return of Scottish football put at risk by breach of Covid-19 restrictions

Aberdeen v Rangers – Scottish Premiership – Pittodrie
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

The Scottish Government has accused Aberdeen players of putting the return of football at risk following a “clear breach” of coronavirus protocols.

The Scottish football authorities have been summoned to a meeting by sports minister Joe Fitzpatrick today after eight Dons players were instructed to self-isolate for up to two weeks following two positive Covid-19 tests.

Reports claim all eight were in a bar in Aberdeen on Saturday night after their team’s 1-0 defeat by Rangers, which was the first competitive Scottish football match since mid-March.

Stricter lockdown restrictions were reimposed in the city on Wednesday following an outbreak linked to pubs and bars – 79 cases had been identified by Thursday with dozens more potential cases under investigation.

Aberdeen lost to Rangers on Saturday

Aberdeen lost to Rangers on Saturday (PA)

Aberdeen’s Scottish Premiership match against St Johnstone in Perth on Saturday remained on following talks with government officials on Thursday night but the Dons will be without the eight players for their next three matches while they self-isolate.

One player’s positive private test was backed up by an NHS test with the other waiting for his to be verified. Both were asymptomatic. The other six players were deemed by health officials to have been in close contact with the player who definitely has the virus.

“The Scottish Government is disappointed by the actions of these individuals who have put at risk the return of professional football in Scotland,” a spokesman said. “This was a clear breach of the rules that were put in place by the SFA, the SPFL and the Scottish Government.

“As this outbreaks highlights, it’s imperative that these strict protocols are diligently followed in order to ensure the continued safe resumption of the sport.

Joe Fitzpatrick has summoned the SFA and SPFL for talks

Joe Fitzpatrick has summoned the SFA and SPFL for talks (PA)

“In light of the ongoing public health situation and the local restrictions that are in place to contain the spread of Covid-19 in Aberdeen City, minister for public health and sport Joe Fitzpatrick has called a meeting with the SFA and SPFL to discuss the situation at Aberdeen Football Club.

“The Scottish Government is clear that it is only by following the rules and keeping people safe that football is able to continue. No-one wants to see the season put at risk.

“Officials will also be meeting with all club captains and managers in the next few days to emphasise the guidelines and their importance.”

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes saw his training session cancelled on Thursday and the Dons boss will have a severely depleted squad for the Perth trip as well as subsequent games at home to Hamilton and at Celtic Park.

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack described the situation as “a bitter blow” and promised the club  would be “carrying out a full investigation”.

But Cormack called for fans to reserve judgement on the players who have been instructed to self-isolate despite criticism from the Scottish Government.

In a video message to fans, Cormack said: “We don’t have all the facts. None of us does.

“I don’t know about you but I’m far from perfect and prone to making errors of judgement. It’s all about how we respond to something we wish had not happened.

“We are therefore asking for your patience to give the affected players the time they need to make sure they are healthy and to provide the club with the opportunity to reflect on what we just went through.”