SPFL must brace for more Covid cases, warns Neil Doncaster

Testing regime crucial to completing season

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

Neil Doncaster has told Scottish football to brace itself for more and more positive coronavirus cases in the weeks ahead.

The warning from the Scottish Professional Football League chief executive comes after three Hamilton players were ordered into a 10-day quarantine after contracting Covid-19.

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Accies cancelled two days of training this week as a precaution but boss Brian Rice has now been told no other members of his team will have to self-isolate ahead of their trip to Kilmarnock on Saturday so long as they return negative results when they are next tested. But they are not the only club to have been disrupted this week.

St Mirren were made to fulfil their clash with Hibernian last weekend despite having goalkeepers Jak Alnwick, Dean Lyness and Peter Urminsky all sidelined by an outbreak at the Paisley club, with boss Jim Goodwin forced to call in Hearts goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal on an emergency loan.

And Doncaster expects to see more teams affected by the Covid-19 crisis as winter approaches with cases of the virus surging across Scotland.

He said: “Given the current incidence of the virus in the community, we are likely to see more and more positive tests for Covid-19 amongst Premiership teams.

“This situation once again emphasises the importance of our current testing regime in reducing the likelihood of the virus spreading unchecked through Premiership first-team squads, and in increasing the chances of us being able to complete season 2020/21.”

Hamilton have been locked in talks with the Public Health Consultant at the Lanarkshire Health Protection team, the Scottish Government and the Joint Response Group since announcing three positive tests on Monday following Saturday’s win away to Livingston.

They have already been forced to stand-down defender Lee Hodson, who shares a flat with former Rangers team-mate Alnwick.

But Accies chairman Allan Maitland is relieved Saturday’s clash with Killie at Rugby Park looks set to go ahead.

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He said: “We are grateful that this matter has been resolved quickly and efficiently and wish to thank all parties involved.

“We fully understand the problems encountered by other clubs since the outbreak of this pandemic and also how difficult it is to resolve them fairly and consistently.

“After a difficult few days, our focus will be to get back to training and carry the momentum gained from last week into the match this Saturday.”

It has been suggested the virus was able to spread through Rice’s squad when his players leapt on top of goalscorer Kyle Munro as they celebrated his 85th-minute winner.

Scottish Football Association president Rod Petrie has now reminded Premiership stars they must do their best stick to social distancing rules even when on the pitch.

He said: “We are grateful for the work of the Lanarkshire Health Protection Team and our colleagues at Scottish Government, who have helped us to work through this difficult and complex situation, with the minimum of disruption in the circumstances.

“This is another timely reminder of the need to maintain social distancing measures before, during and after a match, and to continue to adhere to Scottish Government public health advice as well as the well-established football protocols.”

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Meanwhile, Livingston have been given the Covid all-clear after their defeat to Hamilton on Saturday.

Lions chief executive John Ward tweeted: “A full 24-hour stint of in-house Covid testing by club physio Andy MacKenzie has shown the players and staff are Covid free.”

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