Recent developments could lead to a knockout for Celtic in European football qualifiers without even getting the chance to play.
The Scottish Government will ultimately be the decision makers for Scottish clubs, but they will have to weigh up any decisions made down South.
The Daily Record reports that new UEFA rules mean changes in Government advice about travel advice, isolation rules and the countries affected could mean a lost match for Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen and Motherwell.
UEFA have recognised that the travel situation across Europe is quite unsettled and subject to change. Countries may apply their own rules on who can enter from abroad and whether additional self isolation is needed. UEFA have been working out what that means for their matches in the qualifying stages of the Champions League and the Europa League. And it’s not good news.
If the Scottish Government changes the travel advice in a way which means a visiting team cannot enter Scotland, the game could be forfeited in favour of the visitors. When making the draws, UEFA are factoring in current travel restrictions, but it’s when those change before the game that problems will occur.
UEFA cannot afford to have any possible delays in playing qualifying matches if travel changes meant matches could not be played as planned. The whole qualifying schedule is fast paced, moving quickly from round to round. There’s no margin for any delay.
If new travel restrictions are applied to a visiting team, the home team must propose an alternative venue, somewhere both teams can visit to play. That would need a lot of preparation and work if advice changes and may not be possible if the changes are really late in being announced.
The timeline means that up to 2 days before the draw, it’s possible to try and schedule the alternative match and venue within a tight timeline. If the home club fail to provide an alternative or if the advice has changed within those 2 days prior, the home team are deemed responsible for the unplanned match and UEFA rules say they’d lose 0-3 in the records. Pretty damaging all round, especially in a single leg qualifier!
It’s a scary thought that Celtic’s timeline and qualifying success could be in the hands of government decision makers both North and South and not decided on the pitch.