Celtic defend trip to Dubai amid criticism from Scottish government
The club have said the trip was approved by the relevant authorities
Celtic have defended the club's decision to send its first team squad on a mid-season trip to Dubai at a time when Scotland announced fresh national lockdown measures.
Neil Lennon's side departed for the United Arab Emirates after their 1-0 defeat to rivals Rangers at Ibrox at the weekend, which saw them slip to 19 points behind Steven Gerrard's side with three games in hand.
While a number of clubs chose mid-season breaks in Dubai and surrounding regions, the timing of the trip and the severity of the pandemic in the United Kingdom currently, has led to criticism from authorities.
A Scottish Government statement read: "We would expect the SFA to look into Celtic's trip further - while there are travel exemptions for elite sports which are designed to facilitate international & European competition, if we feel they're being abused, we won't hesitate to remove this privilege."
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) January 4, 2021
The decision was also questioned by Deputy First Minister John Swinney, who told BBC: "I don't think it's a good idea. I don't think it's a particularly great example to set.
"When we're asking members of the public to take on very significant restrictions on the way in which they live their lives... we have all got to demonstrate leadership on this particular question."
Celtic defended the trip, however, stating on Twitter that they would not have travelled had they not received prior approval from the government.
Celtic responded by tweeting: "The training camp was arranged a number of months ago and approved by all relevant footballing authorities and the Scottish government through the Joint Response Group on 12th November 2020.
"The team travelled prior to any new lockdown being in place, to a location exempt from travel restrictions. The camp, the same one as we have undertaken for a number of years has been fully risk assessed.
"If the club had not received Scottish Government approval then we would not have travelled."
Scotland, along with England, announced a new national lockdown at the start of the week in a bid to stem the rise in cases nationwide, with schools closed and a stay-at-home order in effect until the end of January at the earliest.
"It is no exaggeration to say that I am more concerned about the situation we face now than I have been at any time since March last year," First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.