Three SPFL clubs have now stumbled into trouble during the global health crisis, and in their reactions to those games the governing bodies have set the precedent. Celtic and Aberdeen had matches called off after their players breached protocols.
St Mirren are being made to play their game after positive tests, as the Czech Republic were the other night.
In the case of Aberdeen there were positive cases, and seven players were quarantined.
Their games were scheduled to go on but were eventually cancelled, including one against us which was cancelled as much because of Bolingoli as anything.
So the precedents are clear; in the case of breaches, the players involved will be quarantined at once and domestic fixtures for the next week will be called off. That has been clearly established by the Celtic and Aberdeen cancellations.
If clubs report cases in their own house, and thus quarantines, they can expect to play the matches as scheduled.
But will these precedents be followed? Will the SPFL enforce them on every club?
I can think of one club who would raise all manner of Hell in the papers and who the papers would support in this. The media is already being encouraged to speculate on what would happen “if” said club was involved; I think we all know that these “rules” might no longer apply.
The SPFL’s stance on this, as exemplified by how they intended to make Aberdeen play matches, and how they’d made St Mirren do the same, raises and interesting and deadly question; does the league have independent verification of results?
Let me put it another way; say there was a club whose very home ground is notorious for a culture of institutional cheating and dishonesty, and they were involved in a desperate scramble to win honours and stop their rivals winning a do-or-die title … say that club got a series of positives.
Say other players had been in close contact with the players who get those tests.
Say that team is facing having six or seven players – or even just a handful of crucial ones – out of a major and difficult game?
Do we trust that they’ll disclose everything?
Do we trust that they will, for example, declare the findings of their in-house contact tracing?
Who is keeping an eye on all this?
Is it the government? The Health Service? The governing bodies, god forbid?
Or are we trusting the clubs to tell the truth?
St Mirren are the first to properly squeal about the injustice of having to play with a weakened team; the certainty of this crisis is that they will not be the last club which has to.
But with the stakes high, can we trust everyone to play with a straight bat?
Here’s a hypothetical question; what if we discover, later on, after games have been played, that a team didn’t declare medical results, or hid them away? Is there even a provision in the regulations to punish a club for that, with a points deduction or whatever?
And if there isn’t, shouldn’t we be concerned about that?
I still get the troubling feeling that we’re making this stuff up as we go along, and that precedents aren’t going to matter, and if they are and they are being enforced to the letter it makes it almost a certainty that somebody will try to get around them.
I think we are woefully – scandalously – unprepared for that eventuality.
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