Celtic face SFA probe into events of Dubai trip - but not the journey itself

The Scottish FA will look into any alleged breaches of Covid protocols during Celtic’s trip to Dubai, says chief executive Ian Maxwell – but the club won’t be investigated for the trip itself.

SFA Chief Executive Ian Maxwell at Hampden Park. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
SFA Chief Executive Ian Maxwell at Hampden Park. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

On Monday 13 Celtic players and three members of staff – including management team Neil Lennon and John Kennedy – were forced to isolate as close contacts of Christopher Jullien, the defender who tested positive for COVID-19 on the team’s return from the training trip.

Travelling during the pandemic has caused controversy with many, including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, critical of the decision and Maxwell admitted the camp had exposed Celtic to ‘a level of risk’ but they hadn’t broken any rules simply by going. However, potential breaches of the Covid protocols applicable to football HAVE been flagged up to the governing body and will be investigated, he said.

“There are two sides to it,” Maxwell explained. “Were they allowed to go? Technically under the rules, yes they were. They were given permission.

SFA Chief Executive Ian Maxwell

"Should they have gone? That’s something that everyone has an opinion on and I’m sure Celtic are asking themselves.

“We all know football. If clubs have done something that’s successful then they want to continue to do that. So I can understand from a preparation perspective why they wanted to go.

“There’s then the perception - is it right at this point of time? There’s been a huge amount of commentary on that.

"If you look at our Under-21s, we have seen the difficulties that are involved when you are travelling abroad. It adds a level of risk that it probably makes sense that clubs don’t give themselves at this point in time and try and limit as much as possible.”

The Scottish Government has also urged an investigation into Celtic’s trip and Maxwell said the compliance officer could look at any potential breaches brought to SFA attention, but wasn’t under pressure from politicians to act.

"The trip was government approved. There’s nothing to see there. What happened abroad, if there are things that need to be looked at then that’s what we will do,” he said.

"We have a disciplinary process. We have a compliance officer who looks at all sorts of alleged breaches from all sorts of clubs over all sorts of alleged incidents. It would be foolish to say that we have not been made aware of issues potentially with Celtic being abroad. That will go through the process and it’s obviously not appropriate to comment on an ongoing issue.”

While the SFA will look into any potential issues abroad, at home the domestic game was shutdown for three weeks for all but 22 clubs in the Premiership and Championship.

Maxwell insisted the decision had been in the pipeline and was not linked to Celtic’s case.

“This is a decision we’ve taken to help stop the spread of the virus. It’s not linked to Celtic. This decision was talked about throughout most of last week with the JRG, and in-depth on Friday - before we knew of the Celtic situation.

“They are two absolutely separate things and they need to be kept like that. We have made this decision which largely separates full-time players from part-time, because there is more risk with part-time players.”

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