NEIL Lennon didn’t exactly hold back when he spoke publicly for the first time since being forced to enter quarantine after Celtic’s ill-fated warm weather training trip to Dubai in January.

Lennon was livid that so many players and staff had to self-isolate as a result of Christopher Jullien’s positive coronavirus test result and made his feelings well known.

What would he have to say about the football authorities’ handling of the pandemic now? What would his take on the East Fife v Clyde affair be? It is safe to assume he would have a few choice words. HeraldScotland:

The Methil club’s players declined to play their League One encounter at Broadwood on Tuesday night after one of the home side’s players returned a positive Covid-19 test.

The visitors’ manager Darren Young stated that several members of his squad, not least those whose partners were pregnant and those who were self-employed, had reservations about fulfilling the fixture due to fears over their wellbeing.

Young insisted the Clyde player who was found to have contracted the virus – in a test carried out on the day of the league game against Peterhead at Balmoor little over 72 hours earlier – had been in the changing room, done the warm-up and mixed with his team mates.

HeraldScotland:

He had also been on one of two buses which had made the long journey back from Aberdeenshire following the 3-0 defeat.

The move seemed eminently sensible in the circumstances even though it contravened the Joint Response Group (JRG) directive to play.

But East Fife were yesterday fined £11,000 - £1,000 of which is payable to the SPFL Trust now and £10,000 of which is suspended – for their players’ actions after an SPFL disciplinary hearing.

They admitted to breaching SPFL rules G3 and G53 and agreed to replay the game next Thursday.

An SPFL spokesman said: “Clearly, the circumstances surrounding Tuesday’s match were difficult for all involved.

“However, the advice from members of the Joint Response Group was clear and unequivocal. Following such advice, which is informed by frequent discussions with the ESCAG (Elite Sports Clinical Advice Group), has been, and remains, crucial to achieving an orderly conclusion to SPFL competitions.

HeraldScotland:

“While the SPFL has sympathy with players who may not have had all relevant information, no league or other football body can accept a situation in which a club fails to fulfil a match in circumstances where all of the medical advice is that the match can safely proceed. There has been no recorded case, worldwide, of any on-pitch transmission of Covid-19.

“We would like to thank East Fife for their early admission of the charges. We appreciate the difficult position of the East Fife FC board, faced with a decision having been made by their players.”

The world is a different place now to at the start of the year. Infection rates are on the decrease and lockdown restrictions are slowly but surely being relaxed. Still, this bizarre and quite frankly concerning episode does raise some serious questions.

Why did 14 Celtic players and three members of staff have to quarantine back in January when Jullien was found to have Covid-19? The Parkhead club were adamant that correct social distancing restrictions had been put in place and observed.

HeraldScotland:

“We followed the protocols, but it has backfired on us because the goalposts have been moved,” said Lennon.

The Northern Irishman was furious. Celtic had to field understrength sides against Hibernian and Livingston. They drew both of those home games and dropped four points. Any hopes they had of staging a comeback in the Premiership were ended by those results. 

The JRG and the ESCAG were involved in the discussions over whether the Clyde v East Fife game should go ahead and were satisfied that it could. They felt that nobody involved could be considered a “close contact” of the infected player.

It is unlikely, inconceivable in fact, that anyone involved on those groups would willingly endanger anyone. But from the outside looking in it makes little sense. It seems to many members of the public as if they are just wanting to get all of their games played as scheduled and the season concluded on time.

HeraldScotland:

Sure, players can’t take matters into their own hands. But in this instance weren’t their misgivings entirely justifiable? The East Fife officials, coaching staff and players were unanimous.

Perhaps the JRG were right. But isn’t it incumbent on them to explain clearly and precisely why they gave the game the go-ahead. East Fife certainly had no faith in their ruling. There is too little clarity and too much confusion as things stand. 

This episode does nothing to instil confidence or trust in those running the game at a time when that is very much required if Scottish football is to emerge from this unprecedented crisis unscathed.