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Martin Hannan: The reputation of Celtic has been tarnished by Dubai Covid scandal

www.glasgowtimes.co.uk

THIS may be the hardest column I have ever had to write about sport, saving when I wrote about the deaths of my father and brother, so I am not doing this lightly, not least because if you are in Scottish journalism and you write anything about Celtic or Rangers then you will be trolled and even threatened.

I know that to be true because after I helped Celtic manager Neil Lennon write his memoirs 15 years ago, I was contacted by a senior detective and politely but firmly warned about my personal safety and that of my family just for being associated with Lennon.

I have never hidden my sporting allegiances to Celtic – of which I have been a lifelong supporter – and the Scottish football and rugby teams which I followed at home and abroad for many years before I started writing about them.

READ MORE: SFA chief Ian Maxwell defends Celtic’s Dubai trip

It is therefore with a very heavy heart that I have to say that Celtic are very much in the wrong over the Dubai training camp trip, and it has been an unmitigated public relations disaster for the club. It’s probably going to cost them the chance to win their tenth title in a row, and the blow to the reputation of the club is going to be even more long-lasting.C

I suspect that most Celtic fans are inwardly seething that their club, currently the richest in Scotland, went ahead with the Dubai trip even though it was already clear that the new variant of coronavirus was wreaking havoc and was spreading faster and wider than the original strain last March. It was as if Celtic were flaunting their wealth at a time when many households and individuals are finding it very hard to make ends meet. 

Dubai? What was wrong with Lennoxtown in this current time of crisis – an existential crisis for many people and not a few Scottish football clubs?  

Celtic boss Neil Lennon defended his team’s trip

That one player subsequently tested positive meant that Celtic have had to order 16 staff, including Neil Lennon and his assistant John Kennedy, to self-isolate for the next 10 days. I am writing this before last night’s match against Hibs, but I’m with the Easter Road players in their complaints about having to visit Parkhead.  

Celtic have only themselves to blame. They can say all they like about the Scottish Government giving the trip the go-ahead, which they did through the Joint Response group, but matters changed dramatically between that permission being given and the trip starting. 

Did nobody at Parkhead read the papers or listen to the briefings? What part of “dangerous new variant” and “we need to lockdown nationally” did somebody not understand?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney have both heavily criticised Celtic, and what was to stop somebody in the Scottish Government picking up the phone to Celtic Park and saying “things have changed, you will have to call off”? It would have cost the club possibly tens of thousands to cancel at the last minute, but I am sure that if properly advised, they would have done so.

READ MORE: Celtic reveal identity of player who tested positive for coronavirus

No such call was received by Celtic, so they can rightly say it was all approved. Except that somebody with a sense of the public mood, somebody who knew the right thing to do, was posted missing.

The reputation of Celtic FC has been diminished by this scandal. Let other clubs learn from their errors or else the First Minister and her advisers will shut down elite sport.

Which, frankly, is what should have happened in the first place.  

www.glasgowtimes.co.uk

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