Celtic manager Neil Lennon has bemoaned the authorities appearing to “move the goalposts every so often” in questioning why the Scottish champions have not yet been able to play at home in front of any supporters.
St Mirren’s game against Hibernian will go ahead today despite two of the Paisley club’s players testing positive for Covid-19.
By contrast, Celtic had two games postponed because their full-back Boli Bolingoli breached quarantine guidelines with an overnight trip to Spain last month, while subsequently testing negative for the virus.
The Glasgow club then had their bid to have a test event with fans at Celtic Park just before the international fortnight blocked by the Scottish government – only for Ross County to be granted the go-ahead for such a move in their encounter with Lennon’s men today in the first round of fixtures since that break. Around 300 home fans will be in attendance.
Lennon does not believe that Bolingoli’s actions are being held against his club, but can see no reason to continue to prevent them having a smattering of fans at home games. Especially after watching an estimated 16,000 crowd observe social distancing rules to witness Kansas City Chiefs beat the Houston Texans 34-20 in Thursday night’s NFL season opener at the 76,000-capacity Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
Such a scenario at Celtic Park has been knocked into next month, at the earliest, by the announcement from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s on Thursday that 5 October is now the “indicative date” fans at Scottish grounds would be considered, beyond the pilots today at Dingwall and Pittodrie.
“I can’t comment on what other people are thinking, but I wouldn’t like to think [the Bolingoli incident is being held against the club],” Lennon said.
“To me it seems the guidelines change and they move the goalposts every so often. I don’t know about us getting punished but I think the time is right [for fans to return]. There will be fans in at Ross County and if it’s a success I’d like to think there will be fans allowed in to Celtic Park. The way the club is set up we are ready to go.
“I live in Glasgow, I drive through the West End and I see people sitting inside and outside cafes one metre apart but the big thing for me was the NFL game. You have a big stadium that’s maybe a third full, I can’t understand why we couldn’t incorporate that at Celtic with the protocols and health and safety standards we’ve set.
“The pilots are at least steps in the right direction and I hope they are successful.
“Personally I am really disappointed we haven’t had the opportunity yet. I’ve seen it happen in rugby, and I think our stadium is as good as any in Britain.
“We’ve been at the forefront with dealing with this pandemic in terms of the protocols. We’ve had another round of testing this week, and all the players and staff have come back negative, so what we are doing is working.”