Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell has apologised after a Covid-19 outbreak within the Scotland under-21 camp left players at a host of clubs in isolation – including Rangers defender Nathan Patterson.
In a lengthy update on the Scottish FA website, Maxwell insisted the guidelines had been adhered to at a times and claimed that the players were tested a total of four times while with the squad.
As well as apologising to clubs, Maxwell confirmed that the SFA had now launched an investigation into the outbreak which saw Ibrox duo Ross and Robby McCrorie test positive and force several clubs to be without key players over the coming two weeks.
Rangers defender Patterson is one of those isolating and will now miss what looked like a nailed-on start against Falkirk this weekend in the League Cup.
The teenager has patiently waited for his chance to get some first-team minutes but now has to sit out for a fortnight through no fault of his own.
“In general terms, and as a former club Chief Executive,” Maxwell said, “I can fully understand and empathise with the frustrations raised by clubs this weekend. Discovering on a matchday that players on international duty were considered close contacts of positive cases and therefore unavailable to the respective teams is hugely challenging to any club and I apologise for any and all disruption caused.
“It is important to clarify that the under-21 squad undertook four COVID tests on duty: one in the days prior to meeting and one on entry to the camp, both of which were in addition to the two official UEFA mandatory tests prior to each game.
“Each club may, as part of their own risk assessment, undertake a test of their players on return from international duty and obviously three positive cases were recorded. At that point the respective club officials immediately contacted Dr John MacLean, who in turn informed the expert group to commence the customary investigation.
“I understand the question of an additional testing round but the clinical view is that this would not necessarily result in any additional positive tests being returned at that time due to the virus’s incubation period. In fact, all of the players tested upon going back to their clubs returned negative results, including two of the three who were to test positive later in the week. It was only tests undertaken later in the week that returned positive results. Equally, the expert group conducted a full analysis of the data after the index case and identified initial close contacts on that basis.
“We have conducted an examination of protocols undertaken throughout the under-21 camp and it is the view of our chief medical officer that they are in line with the established protocols outlined in the Return to Football documentation. However, given the number of positive cases and close contacts I have instructed a thorough review of all matters relating to the under-21 camp to give clubs, the association and government greater comfort. I will also be keen to work with the clubs to optimise elements of the protocol from their perspective, especially around departure from international duty.
“The events are especially disappointing given the A squad’s success in travelling to four different countries, including Scotland, for the recent triple-header with no positive cases reported. Our chief medical officer will continue to engage with his club counterparts and we have reminded all involved of the importance of adhering to all protocols at all times.”