S.Cottish Football has had worse weeks, it's just hard to remember. For two days of the last three days, a government briefing on coronavirus has been dominated by the once beautiful, now inappropriate game.
With these eight Aberdeen players who felt it wise to hit a bustling city center bar after a home loss to Rangers, politicians turned their eyes to the Scottish Premier League resumption even without the extraordinary actions of Boli Bolingoli. Widely viewed as dispensable prior to his trip to Spain, the Celtic left-back has now triggered three games to be postponed. It is quite a claim to shame. A penny for KR Reykjavik's mind for having strict restrictions in his home country to play Celtic in a Champions League qualifier next week.
Those cynical of the Scottish government will point out that this is a useful distraction from the chaos of exam scores, but the national sport has fallen into disrepute at a time when it can be hard to afford. Coronavirus left Scottish clubs to exist eager to have gate money soon. Instead, Nicola Sturgeon has warned that another infraction will stop the sport indefinitely. In this case the clubs will be marginalized.
Bolingoli's antics defy belief. He jumped to Spain for an overnight stay and did not inform the club beforehand or – after Aberdeen Gate dominated the news – after his return about his trip. When he took his place among the Celtic substitutes for the Kilmarnock draw on Sunday, he not only violated the quarantine protocols, but also endangered players and staff on both sides. When Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, said he was "angry" and "appalled," it felt like an understatement. It's difficult to imagine Bolingoli in a Celtic shirt again.
Celtic says they "could have led the way" and "couldn't have done more" with regards to Covid-19 protocols. This is a sign of a premature sanctity, not atypical of the old company, yet numerous Celtic and Aberdeen employees, faced with wage cuts and fears about their future, have worked tirelessly and professionally for months to support the resumption of football. It's difficult to determine what could be done about rogue elements like Bolingoli or the Aberdeen Eight. Footballers have a responsibility, just as they keep the duty to use traces of common sense.
Less known incidents have been strangely forgotten. Rangers and Motherwell were forced to postpone the July 22 friendly kick-off after the test results came out too late. But the Rangers had split their squad in two and played against Dundee United on the same day, asking questions that haven't been fully answered. Hibernian had to cancel a practice game against Ross County due to a test delay. St. Mirren appeared at the heart of a cluster when seven employees tested positive for Covid-19. for only six of them to be declared as false results.
Scottish football's handling of the new normal has not been flawless. Rod Petrie, the President of the Scottish Federation, spoke of acting "swiftly and decisively" in the Bolingoli affair. On Friday morning, Aberdeen's lunch trip to St. Johnstone on Saturday morning with eight players in forced isolation was still on the schedule. "No you don't," said the Scottish government as the constantly overwhelming football authorities crouched like naughty schoolchildren.
The top class that ran back to hit the start date for a new television deal is dangling by a thread. The governing bodies that botched the 2019-20 campaign cut are now in the exact film they wanted to avoid. It's not their ball. Holyrood decides, not the Scottish Federation or the Scottish Professional Football League. The latter sounded almost panicked the entire time when it came to fitting in 38 games. Now you have to consider the rescheduling.
This is not a standard season. Celtic's quest for 10 titles in a row adds intensity and encourages the conspiracy. When Lennon's men took to the pitch at Dundee United on the evening of August 22, they were 11 points behind Rangers. Celtic could be favorites to prevail in the Premiership but additional pressure has been put on. There are no rules or regulations as to how the Scottish game in football would deal with serious disruptions or lengthy delays. At a time when history is being made, this in itself represents the largest elephant in a room full of tribal differences.
There can be no guarantee that players or clubs will avoid further violations. Indeed, it would be unwise to bet against it. If that adds to the feeling that Scottish football theater always outweighs its worth on the field, then the setting is all serious this time around. "The next time will be the red card as you leave us no choice," warned Sturgeon. Some clubs would struggle to survive the suspension.
(tagsToTranslate) Scottish Premiership (t) Celtic (t) Aberdeen (t) Nicola Sturgeon (t) Football (t) Sport