Celtic’s controversial trip to Dubai should be “looked into”, Nicola Sturgeon has said, as she urged those in elite sports not to abuse the extra freedoms they have been granted.
The First Minister said she had seen evidence suggesting the team’s trip was for “R and R” as opposed to training.
She was asked about the Glasgow side’s visit to the Middle East at the daily coronavirus briefing on Tuesday.
Celtic say they have done nothing wrong and the trip had previously been agreed with the Scottish Government.
Travel is only permitted for “essential reasons” and the Scottish Government has asked the Scottish Football Association (SFA) to investigate the matter further.
Ms Sturgeon said: “As I understand it, the Scottish Government gave advice to the SFA about the rules around elite training camps back in November last year.
“The world around the pandemic has changed quite a bit since November.”
She said it was not the Scottish Government’s role to “sign off” on clubs’ training camps.
Ms Sturgeon continued: “The rules have been – and they may need to change given the changing nature of the pandemic – that elite sports can go overseas for training camps if that’s important in the context of their training for competitions.
“So that’s, as I understand it, what we set out as the rules.”
She said the question for Celtic was around the “purpose” of their visit.
The First Minister added: “I’ve seen a comment from the club that said it’s more for R and R than it is for training.”
She said she had seen photographs which caused her to question whether the “bubble” arrangements for footballers were being adhered to.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I think there are things there that should be looked into.
“Elite sport, and this is not just about Celtic or football, has been in a privileged position at many points over the past year, doing things that the general public can’t do.
“We all want our sports teams and people to do well and be able to train properly, but as long as that’s the case it’s really important that they don’t abuse it, that they use it for the purpose it’s intended.
“And that applies to Celtic as it would to anybody else in that position.”
Celtic posted a series of tweets on Monday evening, maintaining that they had not breached the rules.
The club said: “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.”
Manager Neil Lennon has said the camp was not merely a “break”.
Speaking after Saturday’s Old Firm defeat, he said: “It’s not a break, it’s a training camp. It’s just a change of scenery.
“We just hope to come back refreshed and ready to go.”
Support The Courier today.
The Courier is committed to delivering quality content to our communities and right now that’s more important than ever — which is why our key content is free. However, you can support us and access premium content by subscribing to The Courier from just £5.99 a month. Because Local Matters.Subscribe