Dundee United photo call 'deeply disappointing and irresponsible' - Scottish government

Dundee United players and staff
Photographs of Dundee United players and staff were taken on 27 November

A Dundee United photo shoot of players and staff has been described as "deeply disappointing and irresponsible" by the Scottish government.

Taken on 27 November, it shows them in close proximity on the Tannadice pitch.

Nine United players and manager Micky Mellon are currently self isolating after being deemed close contacts of three Covid-19 positive staff members.

A government spokesman said it "would expect this to be taken extremely seriously by the football authorities".

In the wake of United's images emerging, a video posted by the Celtic FC Twitter account has also been shared on social media showing a similar photoshoot taking place at the Glasgow club's Lennoxtown training base.

But a Celtic spokesperson told BBC Scotland: "The photo was taken and published weeks ago and undertaken within all established protocols. We will happily discuss this with the Scottish government should they wish to do so.

"Celtic's own stringent protocols have ensured that, to date, following thousands of individual tests, we have recorded no positive cases within our squad, with the only cases affecting the club being recorded while our players have been on international duty."

NHS Tayside declined to comment on the matter and the SPFL is unlikely to take action against clubs over the photos, but it could become a matter for the Scottish FA.

Responding to the Tannadice photo call, the government had said: "We would condemn any gathering that is in breach of the Covid-19 guidance agreed between the SPFL and the Scottish government that puts individuals and their families at risk of infection and serious illness.

"Professional football has considerable privileges - but these depend on following the guidance."

Scotland's national clinical director, Jason Leitch, said on BBC Radio Scotland's Off The Ball he was "surprised" to see Dundee United players not socially distanced during a team photo shoot.

"We now know that some people in that photograph were positive," he said. "So they were in their infectious period when that photograph was taken. That's the problem, that's a risk for them, for those around them, for their families.

"The outcome is up to the football authorities. I was, to say the least, a little surprised to see 49 people in a non-distanced club photograph. That didn't seem to me to be an essential part of the return of Scottish football in a safe and considered way. It's not something that fits in with the guidelines."

Leitch pointed out that professional football had been allowed to resume during the pandemic on the proviso that, while there was contact on the pitch, there had to be social distancing off it.

United have yet to comment as a club about the photo shoot, but academy coach Thomas Courts, who took charge of the team for Saturday's 2-0 defeat by Livingston, defended the club protocols.

He himself had not been involved in the squad photo shoot and added: "It is actually difficult to get remotely near the first-team environment. An indication of how well the club orchestrates their protocols is that I hardly ever see the first-team players."

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