Celtic have defended their decision to go on a warm-weather training camp in Dubai amid the Covid-19 pandemic after the Scottish Government urged the Scottish Football Association (SFA) to look into their trip.
The Premiership champions went to the United Arab Emirates on Saturday after their 1-0 defeat at Rangers, which left second-placed Celtic 19 points behind their Old Firm rivals with three games in hand.
Celtic have since posted updates from Dubai, prompting a backlash on social media as well as criticism from the Scottish Government.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Deputy First Minister John Swinney told the BBC. “I don’t think it’s a particularly great example to set.
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“When we’re asking members of the public to take on very significant restrictions on the way in which they live their lives… we have all got to demonstrate leadership on this particular question.”
📍 NAS Sports Complex, Dubai#CelticFC’s mid-season training camp gets underway 🇦🇪 pic.twitter.com/mIeXeQrnFF
The Scottish Government confirmed it has asked the SFA to investigate Celtic’s trip to Dubai.
A Scottish Government statement read on Monday: “We would expect the SFA to look into Celtic’s trip further – while there are travel exemptions for elite sports which are designed to facilitate international & European competition, if we feel they’re being abused, we won’t hesitate to remove this privilege.”
Celtic responded by tweeting: “The training camp was arranged a number of months ago & approved by all relevant footballing authorities & @scotgov through the Joint Response Group on 12th November 2020.
“The team travelled prior to any new lockdown being in place, to a location exempt from travel restrictions. The camp, the same one as we have undertaken for a number of years has been fully risk assessed.
“If the club had not received Scottish Government approval then we would not have travelled.”
In response to the Scottish Government statement, the club has issued the following response:
‘The training camp was arranged a number of months ago & approved by all relevant footballing authorities & @scotgov through the Joint Response Group on 12th November 2020.
Elite sport can continue despite new measures
Professional sport in Scotland has been given the go-ahead to carry on regardless despite First Minister Nicola Sturgeon introducing strict new measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Sturgeon has ordered a March-style full lockdown amid concerns over rising cases across the country.
But Scottish football clubs and their rugby counterparts have been told they can continue to train and play as normal.
The Scottish Government has released an exemption list, which states “those involved in professional sports, for training, coaching or competing in an event” are among those allowed to leave their homes.
A Scottish Football Association statement read: “Following the First Minister’s announcement regarding increased restrictions this afternoon, we will liaise with @ScotGov on the impact upon grassroots football. We will a provide further update in due course.”
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