Celtic and Aberdeen charged as football authorities gets tough over Covid breaches

Clubs face disciplinary action along with the players who broke rules

Celtic's Boli Bolingoli with manager Neil Lennon during the recent match against Kilmarnock. Craig Williamson / SNS Group
Celtic's Boli Bolingoli with manager Neil Lennon during the recent match against Kilmarnock. Craig Williamson / SNS Group

Celtic defender Boli Bolingoli and the eight Aberdeen players who breached coronavirus protocol could all face suspension after the Scottish FA charged them with failing to comply with the laws of the game and bringing the game into disrepute.

Both clubs will also face SPFL disciplinary action for alleged breaches of Covid-19 requirements and testing regulations.The actions of the nine players have taken Scottish football to the brink of another league shutdown after the Dons players broke social distancing rules by visiting a city centre bar together. Two of them later tested positive for Covid-19 and the other six were forced into self-isolation.

Bolingoli took an unsanctioned trip to Spain, failed to quarantine on his return and then played for Celtic against Kilmarnock. He has since tested negative but the nine players’ recklessness has caused fixture chaos with three Aberdeen matches and two Celtic games postponed at the insistence of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said she was issuing the sport a yellow card.

Aberdeen and Celtic both apologised to their peers and lambasted the transgressors, with the Pittodrie club announcing that their players, who issued a statement to say sorry for their “huge error of judgment”, have been heavily fined following the conclusion of an internal investigation, with all the money being donated to NHS Grampian.

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In his statement, owner Dave Cormack said his players had “been taught the harshest of lessons”.

“Their actions were indefensible but the investigation has been completed, said the Pittodrie chief. “They have apologised, they have been punished by the club, and are suffering the humiliation that goes with making a mistake in the public eye.

"The club, like every employer, has a duty of care to its staff and we must also consider the wellbeing of these players, who continue to face an ongoing barrage of criticism and personal abuse from many quarters.”

The eight players involved were Jonny Hayes, Scott McKenna, Sam Cosgrove, Craig Bryson, Bruce Anderson, Dylan McGeouch, Matty Kennedy and Michael Devlin.

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Bolingoli was fined by the police and is the subject of disciplinary action from the club and has been linked with a loan move to French side Amiens having seemingly burned his bridges at Celtic.

Livid Celtic manager Neil Lennon described his player’s illogical and “selfish” trip as a “total betrayal of trust”, while the club promised their own inquiry.

None of that was enough to stave off further disciplinary action from the game’s governing bodies as they seek to convince the Scottish government that they have control of the situation and prevent external interference or the cessation of play.

Further sanctions have already been put in place aimed at educating players and clubs and ensuring that social distancing, hygiene measures and testing protocols are being upheld. They have also signed up to do more work to promote the public health message.

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On Thursday, they also took the controversial decision to halt the return to training for clubs outwith the SPFL Premiership until at least 24 August.

It prompted claims that others were being punished for others’ misdemeanours. But, yesterday, the players responsible for the mess were called to account for themselves at a hearing on 28 August.

The SFA has alleged that the players have breached disciplinary rules 24 and 71, which could see them facing anything from a two to eight-game ban.

In the meantime, the SPFL has launched its own disciplinary proceedings against Aberdeen and Celtic, claiming they have breached the league’s Covid-19 – Requirements and Testing Regulation.

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In a statement from the Joint Response Group, they said there would be no further comment pending the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings.

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