Peter Lawwell broke cover to 'profoundly apologise' to Celtic supporters over the Dubai fiasco.Widely pilloried for the decision to press ahead with a
Peter Lawwell broke cover to ‘profoundly apologise’ to Celtic supporters over the Dubai fiasco.
Widely pilloried for the decision to press ahead with a winter training camp in the middle of a global pandemic, the Parkhead club’s chief executive conceded the trip was a mistake – while outlining the rationale behind it.
Given permission to travel by the Scottish Government in November, Celtic ignored rising cases of Covid-19 both here and in the Middle East in late December by flying out hours after they lost 1-0 to Rangers on January 2 to drop 19 points behind their city rivals in the title race.
Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell has apologised for the club’s training camp in Dubai
Celtic were heavily criticised for going ahead with the trip despite rising Covid-19 cases
Poolside pictures of players and staff drinking alcohol infuriated supporters enduring a second lockdown and prompted First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to question if the club were abusing their elite athlete exemption.
An already incendiary situation exploded on Sunday when it emerged that a player – later named as defender Christopher Jullien – had tested positive for the virus upon returning to Scotland.
A track and trace assessment subsequently ruled that 13 players and three staff – including manager Neil Lennon and his assistant John Kennedy – were close contacts of the French centre-half and therefore had to self-isolate.
Defender Christopher Jullien tested positive on their return which meant 13 players, Neil Lennon and three members of staff had to self isolate
A patchwork side then drew 1-1 with Hibernian to fall 21 points off the pace to all but end Celtic’s hopes of clinching a historic tenth successive title.
In an in-house interview released on Wednesday night, Lawwell expressed his regret that the trip had gone ahead – while detailing the thought process behind it.
‘Looking with hindsight, looking at the outcome of the trip, clearly it was a mistake and for that I profoundly apologise to our supporters,’ he said.
‘We left here and the rationale for the camp was with the very best of intentions.
‘Things haven’t gone the way we wanted to, and the outcome is clearly very regrettable.’ Asked why the trip went ahead in the first place, Lawwell continued: ‘If you look back over the last four years, going to the camp in Dubai has been extremely successful.
‘The decisions we made are entirely for the best interest of the team and the best interest of the club.
‘What we planned to do was take them to these facilities again – which are world class – after a very, very hectic programme in November and December, which has in the past proven to be of great benefit in terms of performance after January.
Lawell insisted the trip went ahead because of the performance benefits of previous years
‘To take them there, to give them the training, and come back and get to that performance level again. So that was the rationale.’ Outlining the timetable of events, Lawwell continued: ‘In terms of the facts surrounding the trip, we decided way back in November to go, and were permitted to go.
‘Clearly, the landscape has changed significantly, particularly in the run-up to us going to Dubai in terms of the infection rate.
‘But at the time, Dubai’s infection rate was low. It was still part of the green corridor for UK and Scottish travel to the point that we left.’ Lawwell is adamant Celtic maintained the same standards to guard against Covid infection on the trip as they had done since training was allowed to resume last summer.
‘We were deploying the same protocols that we have done since the bubble started in June,’ he said.
‘And we haven’t had one positive up until this stage in terms of using our own protocols through international travel – flights.
A patchwork side drew 1-1 with Hibernian to fall 21 points behind leaders Rangers on Monday
‘We’ve been into the Europa League and I think we’ve had six international flights.
‘We’d a training camp in the summer (in France) plus the protocols we were operating in Scotland.
‘The protocols were robust, they’re proven, and that’s what we put in place for the Dubai trip.
‘So all the precautions and all the preparation we had were proven and were as they have been employed – very successfully – here in Scotland.
‘Overall, the decision to go was for the right reasons – it was performance- and of course the outcome of that has been really disappointing.’