SCOTTISH football has been plunged into further Covid chaos after alarming news broke that “at least four Rangers” players attended a party at the weekend.
Calvin Bassey and Nathan Patterson have already been named by media outlet The Athletic of breaking coronavirus guidelines following the team’s 1-0 win over Kilmarnock at Ibrox on Sunday.
Now the national game awaits the next step from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who hammered Celtic for Boli Bolingoli’s breach of protocols back in August when the champions’ fixture list was thrown into jeopardy with Premiership games against Aberdeen and St Mirren postponed.
Now the Holyrood ruler has responded to the claims that four Ibrox players have broken curfew rules to attend a house party.
The Govan club are investigating the alleged incident, but will wait until the probe is over to release more details.
It’s not the first time the Ibrox outfit have been in the dock for contravening national lockdown guidelines. In November, Jordan Jones and George Edmundson were caught attending a private gathering in a house and the pair were immediately placed into isolation.
Ms Sturgeon did not comment on the incident, but the Ibrox club’s quick response was hailed by the Scottish Government. They said: “Players maintain the sporting bubble by not compromising any of these things when away from the heavy regulated training or match environment, and we expect clubs and their staff and players to fulfil their responsibilities and apply all of these measures rigorously.
“We commend Rangers for taking such swift and decisive action in this instance, to protect the rest of their squad and wider public.”
The Govan culprits were each banned for seven games by the Scottish FA and are now on loan at English clubs – Jones at Sunderland and Edmundson at Derby County.
The latest breach involves Celtic’s city neighbours as four players allegedly flouted lockdown protocols to attend a gathering on Saturday.
Ms Sturgeon refused to comment on the specifics, but is angry she has to talk about football players breaching rules once again.
DOWN AND OUT…Boli Bolingoli headed for the Celtic exit in August.
In a media address, she said: “I tell you something, it takes me all my time not to stand here and use expletives whenever I have to speak about football again.
“I don’t know yet, I’ve not been given all the details of the Rangers incident yet. I’ve no doubt that will happen when the details are clearer.
“The club has said they are investigating.
“But let me be clear, whenever football rears its head in this situation I get emails that I’m somehow partial in favour of or against one team or another. That’s not true.
“I don’t care what club it is who is breaking the rules, if you’re breaching the rules you’re in the wrong.
“It’s really frustrating, not just to me or the government, that’s not the most important thing, but, believe me, it’s really frustrating, but it’s really unfair to the majority of the country who don’t have privileges right now and when they see elite sports people breach these rules – and let’s be frank, the vast majority are not – when a small number do, people think: ‘Why am I bothering?’.
“So, can I say to football and sport in general, please make sure your house is in order because it shouldn’t take me standing here to say to highly-paid footballers: ‘You’ve got to follow the rules’. It really shouldn’t take that, but the fact it does is hugely frustrating to me.
“I don’t care if it’s Celtic, Rangers, or any other club it’s not on, so please stop breaking the rules.”
At the start of August last year, two Aberdeen players tested positive following a visit to a city bar with six of their team-mates after a 1-0 loss to Steven Gerrard’s side.
The Dons stars were forced into quarantine and Ms Sturgeon admitted she was “furious” and warned that any other incidents of this nature would “risk the return” of football.
She said: “Football has been given the go-ahead on the strict condition clubs and players abide by the guidance that has been agreed.
“If they don’t do that, they put at risk the return of the professional game.”
A week later, bungling Belgian defender Bolingoli flew out for a two-day break in Spain without Celtic’s permission, failing to isolate on his return and then played as a late substitute in the 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock at Rugby Park only days later.
Sturgeon issued a “yellow card” and insisted any further breaches would result in a red and leave her with “absolutely no choice”.
She said: “This is just not acceptable. We can’t have privileged football players just decide they’re not going to bother. So this can’t go on.
“Let me put this as clearly as I can in language that the football world will understand: consider today to be the yellow card.
“The next time it will be the red card, because you will leave us with absolutely no choice.”
Now Scottish football must wait with baited breath to see what action is taken by the Scottish Government.
What exactly will the red card entail? Will the leagues be called as null and void and the season obliterated?
The ball is now at the feet of the First Minister.
Watch this space.