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Former St Mirren chairman unimpressed by Celtic’s Dubai ‘jolly’

Soccer – Scottish Premier League Meeting – Hampden Park
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

Former St Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour has blasted Celtic’s controversial Dubai “jolly” – but claims it could be key to his old club winning their docked points appeal.

The Buddies and Kilmarnock both face a hearing on January 14 to decide whether the 3-0 forfeits imposed on them will stand.

Saints fear they could miss out on six points and Killie three after both clubs were forced to call off games back in October as a result of Covid-19 breaches.

The Paisley side were punished after they suffered an outbreak of the virus which was allowed to spread because Jim Goodwin’s players failed to self-isolate – with some even sharing car journeys together.

But Gilmour believes the punishments meted out to St Mirren following a Scottish Professional Football League investigation do not fit the crime and claims there are double standards at play, with Celtic currently in Dubai for a warm weather training camp.

Hoops boss Neil Lennon insisted the trip was “not a break” for his team but it has not gone down with large swathes of the Parkhead faithful, who now find themselves living under new strict new Covid restrictions introduced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday – just 48 hours after their team slipped 19 points behind bitter rivals Rangers with Saturday’s Old Firm defeat.

But Gilmour says the fact Celtic are in the Middle East will only strengthen Saints’ case for leniency when they go before their Hampden hearing next week.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable that they have gone to Dubai,” Gilmour – who was led the board at Saints for almost 20 years before stepping down in 2016 – told the PA news agency. “I’ve been seeing pictures of the Celtic players strolling about together, not socially distancing and not wearing masks. How do you explain that?

“I understand football teams were given a dispensation to go and play games in Europe – but all of a sudden Celtic are in Dubai, not for a game.

“Let’s face it, we all think it was for a bit of a relaxation jolly. I just find it incredible.

Celtic’s Kristoffer Ajer looks dejected after his side's defeat to Rangers on Saturday

Celtic’s Kristoffer Ajer looks dejected after his side’s defeat to Rangers on Saturday (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“Celtic have got the best training ground in the country and it’s lying there empty. I can’t believe they’ve actually done it.

“I don’t think there is any doubt St Mirren will use aspects of this in their appeal as to why their sentence is so harsh. Are the SPFL just turning a blind eye to everything else?”

Saints had games against Motherwell and Hamilton postponed in October after admitting they could not raise a team following Covid-19 outbreaks.

Their rivals were both subsequently awarded 3-0 wins – with Well given a second default victory after a similar case involving Killie.

Both St Mirren and Kilmarnock were found to have breached coronavirus safety protocols, with the Paisley outfit confessing they had “failed to provide suitable facilities to enable players to observe physical distancing at training”.
However, Gilmour said: “Yes, St Mirren needed a slap on the wrists but the decision to award them 3-0 defeats was extremely harsh.

“I don’t believe if Celtic or Rangers had done the same thing and there was only a handful of points in the title race, that they would have reached the same decision that they reached with St Mirren. That’s the bottom line.

“There is no doubt St Mirren made mistakes – but I don’t think it was such a grave mistake that it merited the loss of six points.

“Anyone in football that shows a bit of common sense would admit that. Even the clubs gaining the six points were extremely quiet about it and almost sheepish.

“It just doesn’t make sense and hopefully an appeal panel will see things differently, especially since we will be unbelievably lucky to get through to the end of the season without a lot more call-offs happening.

“This new strain is far more contagious so it is highly likely that we will see more clubs having to deal with outbreaks and forced to postpone fixtures. Are we going to take the points off them too?”

PA has approached Celtic for a comment.