SFA and SPFL make bold Scottish Government claim; Neil Doncaster also worried Celtic at disadvantage in Europe

By John McGinley

October 3, 2020

The Scottish FA and SPFL have switched gears in their quest to get supporters back into football matches, accusing the Scottish Government of making political decisions and not clinical ones.

To date, the football governing bodies have been rather diplomatic when it has come to their comments about the ongoing pandemic and the government’s stance.

However, a new tone was struck live on the radio today when two senior Hampden officials were quizzed by BBC Scotland.

SFA vice president Mike Mulraney told BBC Sportsound today: “I heard Jason Leitch saying this was about choices. Well, this is clearly a political choice and not a clinical one that we have had our fans restricted from accessing the game.

“The government has a very, very difficult path. Six hundred fans in a stadium that takes 60000, outside, all facing the same way, is probably far less risk than allowing people into a restaurant and an aeroplane.

“We’ve got to accept that is the current government position but I think it is fair that we ask them if that is in line with the current position on clubs in Europe.”

Hampden Stadium / (Photo by David Goddard/Getty Images)

SPFL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster was then asked by host Richard Gordon whether he agreed with the suggestion that the decision to prevent fans attending football was a political one, responding that he did.

Doncaster would go on to air worries that Celtic and Rangers will be at a disadvantage in UEFA Europa League competition, with teams from other countries on the continent able to have a limited number of fans attend games.

He told BBC Scotland: “With Rangers and Celtic back in the Europa League group playing against teams in Portugal, France, Poland and Belgium. There will be fans in those stadiums, fans cheering on their crowds.

“So our clubs Celtic and Rangers will clearly be at a big disadvantage not having fans in our stadiums and that can’t be right.”

SPFL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster / (Photo by Jeff Holmes/Getty Images)

It’s fair to say the comments of Mulraney and Doncaster have provoked quite a reaction.

Journalists such as Tom English and Ewan Murray have weighed in to discuss the issue on social media and pundit Michael Stewart has also been airing his views.

The former Hearts and Hibs man is sceptical that the new approach from the governing bodies will help fans get back into stadiums.

The Scottish Government meanwhile have refuted the claim that their decisions as based on politics and not clinical evidence, with Professor Jason Leitch responding to BBC Scotland later in the day.

He said: “It’s absolutely not a political decision, he’s incorrect. It’s a choice made by the clinicians and then the decision-makers choose. You simply cannot re-open everything.”

This is a complicated issue and I’m not best-placed to offer my opinion on what should happen, primarily because I am not privy to the information that the Scottish Government are.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon won’t rush capacity stadiums back / (Photo by Andrew Matthews – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

For me, there has to be some sort of trust that decisions are being made in the best interests of public health.

The SFA and SPFL have come out swinging this weekend and as ambassadors of Scottish football have a duty to speak up for clubs.

However, like Stewart, I doubt Scotland’s decision-makers will take kindly to accusations.

In other news, Celtic-linked Omar Colley looks set for a move to the English Premier League.