Linfield case should serve as a warning to Celtic

Uefa will force clubs to forfeit ties if their players test positive for Covid-19

Linfield manager David Healy. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
Linfield manager David Healy. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Celtic are as familiar as any club with the nerve-wracking and often tortuously difficult path which must be negotiated to reach the Champions League group stage.

But as they prepare to begin their 2020-21 qualifying campaign against KR Reykjavik at Celtic Park on Tuesday night, they are stepping into an unprecedented environment where it’s not only an off night on the pitch which could scupper their hopes of returning to the main stage of Europe’s elite club competition.

The harsh reality of the impact Covid-19 will have on this season’s tournament did not take long to manifest itself as Drita, the champions of Kosovo, were eliminated in the cruellest of fashions this week. After two of their players tested positive for coronavirus, forcing the whole squad into quarantine, Drita were unable to play their preliminary round final tie against Linfield in Nyon on Tuesday. Just 24 hours later, Uefa’s accelerated and revised disciplinary procedures declared the match forfeited by Drita and awarded a 3-0 win to David Healy’s Northern Irish champions, landing them a £250,000 bonus and a first qualifying round tie against Legia Warsaw.

Drita are considering legal action but it’s unlikely to be the only tie decided in this unsatisfactory manner over the next few weeks. Celtic, along with Europa League entrants Rangers, Motherwell and Aberdeen, can only hope their progress is decided solely on sporting merit.


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