Scottish FA doctor John MacLean says autumn return faces 'hurdles'

Stephen Hendrie and Lewis Smith
There has been no football in Scotland since 13 March

An autumn return for Scottish football is possible but faces "hurdles", says Scottish FA doctor John MacLean.

The game has been suspended in Scotland since 13 March because of coronavirus, with lockdown and social distancing measures still ongoing.

It was suggested to Dr McLean on BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound that football was unlikely to resume until September or October.

"I think your timescale wouldn't be a million miles out," he replied.

"We've reached the plateau of the curve [of the pandemic] and when lockdown is released, that will be gradual.

"I would be optimistic and hope that the government would look for elite sports people to have some leeway to be able to get back to individual training in [a] bio-secure environment. But there are lots of hurdles."

England's Premier League clubs are in talks over how to resume playing, initially behind closed doors, while the Scottish FA and SPFL have formed a joint response group to assess when matches can resume north of the border.

Dr MacLean - the chief medical officer for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games - said colleagues in England were suggesting that more than 200 people would be inside a stadium even for closed doors games.

He also questioned whether it was right that the likes of paramedics would be at football matches, rather than fighting against the pandemic, and that footballers be given tests when others were not.

He added: "What happens when a player becomes unwell? It's easy to say that player should self isolate for seven days but all of his or her team-mates would have to self isolate for 14 days.

"The team that they've just played against, would all their players have to go into self isolation?"

Dr MacLean, who chairs a sub-group of Scottish football's Joint Response Group looking at medical and player welfare, was also asked about the prospect of admitting supporters to matches again and said the required relaxation of social distancing "is a long way away".

He pointed to the notion of 50,000 fans being at Hampden for Scotland's Euro 2020 play-off against Israel, which had been due to be played in March.

"That is a difficult prospect," he said. "Some of this work has been done by our colleagues around Europe, but it is a mammoth, mammoth task."

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