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SFA chief believes coronavirus-hit Celtic will reflect on Dubai trip

SFA chief believes coronavirus-hit Celtic will reflect on Dubai trip
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Neil Lennon, assistant John Kennedy and 13 first-team players have been deemed to be closed contacts of the infected player.

Scottish Football Association chief executive Ian Maxwell believes Celtic may be considering the impact of their trip to Dubai in the wake of their Covid-19 fall-out.

The Parkhead club had one player test positive following their return to Scotland from their regular mid-season training camp on Friday.

However, boss Neil Lennon, assistant John Kennedy and 13 first-team players have been deemed to be closed contacts of the infected player – revealed to be defender Christopher Jullien – and will also go into self-isolation.

That leaves the club left to cobble together a team for the visit of Hibernian on Monday night.

Maxwell was at pains to stress that Celtic were given approval by the Scottish Government for the trip through the elite athlete exemption.

"It is not our permission to give," he said, before adding: "They now find themselves in a position which they would not want to be in under any circumstances in terms of the positive case, the number of close contracts identified.

"It is fair to say that if Celtic had been at home they would still potentially have had one positive case but it would have been one player missing.

"And that is the danger of travelling abroad, there is a lot more inherent risk involved from a close contact perspective because the travel on planes and buses.

"So from that perspective I am sure Celtic are revisiting the requirement to go and the decision that they made to go, and that is something for them to reflect on, given the fall-out there has been."

Maxwell was speaking on day that it was announced by the SFA board that,  in the interests of public health and with an increase of Covid cases across the country, football below Championship level would be suspended for three weeks at midnight.

The suspension of the game below the top two tiers will last until January 31, and will be reviewed on a rolling basis by the Scottish FA board in partnership with Scottish Government.

Maxwell said: "It is a really tough decision. We are the governing body for football and we want to see football played for as long as we can.

"But but we felt with the increase in cases and increased risk of transmission from the new strain of the virus, then it was the right call to make,  to limit football's impact on that.

"Nothing is off the table a far as our battle against Covid is concerned.

"There are no plans to look at the Premiership or Championship unless things dramatically worsen."

The William Hill Scottish Cup will also be suspended, with any matches due to be played prior to February 1 to be rescheduled.

Maxwell, however, is confident of getting the schedule back on track.

He said: "It is just something that we have to work through.

"The Scottish Cup is a huge tournament in this country.

"There are a lot of clubs that are still involved and those clubs will want their chance to make their way to Hampden to play in the final and it is up to us to make sure we give them that opportunity, subject to the allowances that we have got within the restrictions."

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