Aberdeen football players have been condemned by the Scottish Government for allegedly breaching coronavirus rules and putting the return of professional football “at risk”.
The Dons are set to be without eight self-isolating players for their next three matches after two tested positive for Covid-19.
Scottish football’s Joint Response Group confirmed one player had tested positive from an NHS test following the initial private screening with the other awaiting his follow-up test. Both are asymptomatic.
However, following investigations by NHS Grampian’s Health Protection Team, the Scottish Government has instructed six more players to self-isolate after they were deemed to have been in close contact with the first to test positive.
Players are allowed to be in close contact with each other as long as they remain in their bubble, something the Scottish Government has claimed has not happened.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is disappointed by the actions of these individuals who have put at risk the return of professional football in Scotland.
“This was a clear breach of the rules that were put in place by the SFA, the SPFL and the Scottish Government.
“As this outbreaks highlights, it’s imperative that these strict protocols are diligently followed in order to ensure the continued safe resumption of the sport.
“In light of the ongoing public health situation and the local restrictions that are in place to contain the spread of Covid-19 in Aberdeen City, Minister for Public Health and Sport Joe Fitzpatrick has called a meeting with the SFA and SPFL to discuss the situation at Aberdeen Football Club.
“The Scottish Government is clear that it is only by following the rules and keeping people safe that football is able to continue.
“No one wants to see the season put at risk.
“Officials will also be meeting with all club captains and managers in the next few days to emphasise the guidelines and their importance.”
The club has launched its own investigation into the outbreak.
Derek McInnes saw his training session cancelled on Thursday and the Dons boss will have a severely depleted squad for the Perth trip as well as subsequent games at home to Hamilton and at Celtic Park.
The first player to test positive will have to self-isolate for 10 days from Wednesday with the other seven requiring 14 days of self-isolation.
Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack said: “After Saturday’s game, with all eyes on Pittodrie, we were once again commended on the stringent processes and measures we had in place. Given the efforts of everyone at the club and our investment in protecting our most valuable assets, this is a bitter blow.
“With two first-team players testing positive for Covid-19, plus six others having to isolate for 14 days, it is also a harsh reminder of the severity and speed of spread of this virus.
“The club will be carrying out a full investigation but, as an immediate first step, we have reinforced the club’s Covid-19 protocols and the governing bodies’ guidance with every player and member of staff and will continue to regularly educate and remind everyone of what is, and what is not, acceptable in the current climate.
“We now have to focus on preparing for Saturday’s game under extremely difficult circumstances.”