SFA Chief Executive Ian Maxwell has interestingly claimed that the Scottish Government did indeed formally approve the Celtic Dubai trip.
Last week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon distanced herself from that idea. Speaking about Celtic’s trip to the UAE, she said: “As I understand it, we gave advice to the SFA about the rules around elite training camps back in November last year. It’s not our role to sign off, agree or not agree what football clubs do in terms of training camps. We set out what the rules are.” (Clyde 1).
This led to the Daily Record citing a Hampden source that said government officials were working with Celtic on the trip just days before they left. The Hoops have since come back and had one player test positive for Covid. 15 other players and staff members are self-isolating, including manager Neil Lennon and assistant John Kennedy.
However, Maxwell has done anything but absolve the government from blame. As he discussed what could potentially be investigated regarding the trip, he states those that rule the country had given their seal of approval.
As quoted by the Scotsman, Maxwell said: “The trip was government approved. There’s nothing to see there. What happened abroad, if there are things that need to be looked at then that’s what we will do.
“We have a disciplinary process. We have a compliance officer who looks at all sorts of alleged breaches from all sorts of clubs over all sorts of alleged incidents.
“It would be foolish to say that we have not been made aware of issues potentially with Celtic being abroad. That will go through the process and it’s obviously not appropriate to comment on an ongoing issue.”
Maxwell clears up government involvement; attention now turns to potential Celtic breaches
So that all but confirms where the government stood on the trip. They were happy for Celtic to go, and that was to be expected. The club would never have gone had they not been given official approval. Celtic can’t be that reckless.
But the attention will now turn away from the journey to the actual details of what went on during the trip. It’s undoubted that Celtic haven’t been helped by leaked images.
Snaps of the players having a drink together at a bar did nothing for us. Neither did the one of Lennon and Scott Brown enjoying a pint on a couple of sunloungers. It’s undoubtedly these images that will have the SFA looking into what actually happened in Dubai.
It now remains to be seen whether any punishment or charges will come Celtic’s way. Goodness knows what could happen if the club is found guilty of any breaches. Albeit, as things stand, you would like to think the team kept to their bubble throughout the trip.
But this is a different thing entirely from actually punishing Celtic for going to Dubai. That simply can’t be done anymore. Not with the government officially rubber-stamping the trip and giving it the thumbs-up.
It’s great to get some clarity on that aspect in particular. The trip itself was morally wrong, but it clearly wasn’t legally troubling.