Ian Maxwell forced to explain Scotland U-21 positive cases after Celtic were left fizzing

By David Walton

November 23, 2020

SFA Chief Executive Ian Maxwell has been forced to explain after a Covid outbreak in the Scotland under-21s left several stars in isolation.

Celtic were without David Turnbull for Saturday’s trip to Easter Road, whilst Aberdeen were without Lewis Ferguson and Connor McLennan at Ibrox yesterday. Livingston, meanwhile, were another club affected as Robby McCrorie sat out their 1-0 defeat to St Mirren on Saturday. Motherwell too saw Barry Maguire and Allan Campbell go into self-isolation.

Neil Lennon was absolutely fizzing after the positive case was revealed, calling the u-21 protocols “a shambles” (Scottish Sun). Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes also vented his anger at how the SFA dealt with things (Daily Record).

This has forced SFA Chief Executive Maxwell into issuing an apology to all clubs as he went into detail about the protocols currently in place on international duty.

As quoted by the Daily Record, Maxwell said: “Discovering on a matchday that players on international duty were considered close contacts of positive cases and therefore unavailable to the respective teams is hugely challenging to any club and I apologise for any and all disruption caused.

“It is important to clarify that the under-21 squad undertook four COVID tests on duty. I understand the question of an additional testing round but the clinical view is that this would not necessarily result in any additional positive tests being returned at that time due to the virus’s incubation period. In fact, all of the players tested upon going back to their clubs returned negative results, including two of the three who were to test positive later in the week.

“We have conducted an examination of protocols undertaken throughout the under-21 camp and it is the view of our chief medical officer that they are in line with the established protocols outlined in the Return to Football documentation. However, given the number of positive cases and close contacts I have instructed a thorough review of all matters relating to the under-21 camp to give clubs, the association and government greater comfort.”

Has to be more responsibility taken by Football Associations

In fairness to the SFA, it’s not just them who will send players back to their clubs with positive tests. This is more of an argument suitable for the wider footballing world. After all, look at the issues Celtic had last month with as many as four key players self-isolating from three different countries.

However, there doesn’t appear to be any form of apology given to clubs when their players test positive. Maxwell may find comfort in revealing that all players tested negative before they broke away, but that doesn’t matter.

The fact is they managed to pick up the virus within the Scotland set-up. The fact that Celtic, Aberdeen, Livingston, and Motherwell all had players missing because of this at the weekend is unacceptable. It’s still being met with a shrug of the shoulders and a “get on with it” type message being dished out.

Celtic midfielder David Turnbull / (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Football Associations have to start taking better responsibility when they’re on international duty with clubs’ players. If an outbreak such as what happened on u-21 duty last week occurs, then it’s clear not everything is right. The reason we have bio-secure bubbles is to stop this from happening.

Maxwell has promised an investigation into proceedings, but he’s still doing his best to defend what went on. When so many players are coming back and needing to isolate, it’s not right that the SFA Chief Executive comes out and pretty much gives a message similar to “Well it’s not our fault, we did all we could”.

He should be apologising unreservedly to the clubs who have been affected by the matter and stop looking to defend everything the SFA does. Some honesty and acknowledgment that not everything went well enough would be a start. Instead, Maxwell is too willing to justify everything.

In other news, Celtic’s European rivals have reportedly been struck with a massive blow ahead of their meeting next week.