Aberdeen’s Premiership game at St Johnstone will go ahead on Saturday – but EIGHT players are set to be ruled out due to coronavirus concerns.
The hammer blow for Derek McInnes’ team comes after a day of uncertainty after news of an initial positive test broke at lunchtime.
Two Dons players have now returned positive tests for Covid-19. Of those two, the initial positive player has had his positive reading confirmed by a second NHS test.
A further six players have been found to have come into contact with the initial positive players.
As a result, the initial positive player now needs to self-isolate for 10 days, while the other seven must stay in isolation for 14 days.
However, the SFA/SPFL Joint Response Group have decided Saturday’s game will go ahead.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon increased lockdown restrictions in the Granite City for seven days yesterday, due to a spike in cases in the area.
Bars and restaurants have shut, while there is a five-mile travel limit for leisure activities and people from outside Aberdeen have been encouraged not to travel into the city.
There were chaotic scenes outside bars in the city centre over the weekend, with large crowds queuing to get into licensed premises.
According to reports elsewhere, a number of first-team players were in and around the city centre at the weekend.
An SFA/SPFL Joint Response Group statement this evening said: “This instruction for self-isolation has been unanimously endorsed by the Joint Response Group. In light of the action taken, and after consultation with Scottish Government, Aberdeen’s Scottish Premiership match against St Johnstone on Saturday will go ahead as scheduled.”
Rod Petrie, Joint Response Group chair, thinks the JRG has sent the “strongest possible message” to clubs that protocols must be followed.
He said: “As we have said from the outset, public health is the absolute priority of the Joint Response Group. As soon as we were informed of the positive tests, the information was immediately referred to the Scottish Government via our Chief Medical Consultant.
“Given the well-documented outbreak in Aberdeen it was imperative that we took the swiftest action to enable the local Health Protection Team to respond immediately.
“The Scottish Government’s instruction to the JRG was clear and unequivocal, as was our support of that instruction. Given the circumstances, we issue the strongest possible message to all clubs to ensure compliance with the twice-weekly testing procedure and Scottish football’s Return to Playing Protocol. It is imperative that everyone adheres to Scottish Government public health advice.”
The players involved will also miss the Dons meetings with Hamilton on Wednesday and Celtic next weekend.
Aberdeen, who had been investigating whether the initial player found to be positive had breached return to training protocols, released a statement in response to this evening’s decision.
It said: “Further to tonight’s JRG statement, Aberdeen FC confirms that two first-team players, who have tested positive for COVID-19 but are asymptomatic, are self-isolating for ten days.
“In line with government guidance and procedures from the football authorities, six other players, who were in close proximity with the two positive cases, are also self-isolating for 14 days.
“The club has been in open discussions with the football authorities since this came to light.
“As a result, the club will be missing eight players for the St Johnstone game, which the JRG has confirmed will now go ahead on Saturday.”
AFC 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.”