By Democrat reporter
The ludicrous situation whereby tomorrow’s Celtic v Rangers match is being allowed to go ahead tomorrow looked even more irresponsible when BBC Scotland revealed today that dozens of police officers have been forced to self-isolate after some positive Covid cases two weeks after Rangers’ title win.
The Scottish Police Federation said a number of officers who attended illegal gatherings of fans on 7 March have tested positive. Other officers they had contact with were required to self-isolate.
It comes as a major police operation, which will cost hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money; a surge in sectarian and domestic violence and even possibly a number of lives from Covid-19, is planned for Sunday’s match in Glasgow.
The events at Ibrox and George Square two weeks ago have directly affected 30 to 40 officers as well as their families.
The BBC understands at least two officers involved in the policing operation later tested positive although it is not possible to determine with certainty where they were infected.
David Hamilton, chairman of the SPF, told the BBC: “It is entirely predictable and, of course, most of these officers will not have been vaccinated. It is everything we warned about.
“Our call is for people to reflect on those numbers and the impact it is having on the community through the lack of policing.
“We did not choose to be in George Square. It is something we had to do and it is part of our role.”
Mr Hamilton urged both Rangers and Celtic fans to stay at home on Sunday to avoid putting frontline police officers at risk.
He described Sunday’s police operation as one of the largest Police Scotland has conducted with personnel being drafted in from across Scotland.
Efforts have also been made to procure better protection for police officers, including higher-level FFP3 masks.
A total of 28 arrests were made made and seven fines issued after crowds of fans gathered to celebrate Rangers winning the Scottish Premiership.
‘Infuriating and disgraceful’
Large numbers of supporters made their way to Ibrox Stadium and Glasgow’s George Square to mark the achievement despite warnings to stay at home.
Nicola Sturgeon, pictured right, said the crowds were “infuriating and disgraceful” and could delay the end of the Covid lockdown.
Under current guidance public gatherings are banned and the “stay at home” order remains in place.
Four people from a maximum of two households are able to meet outdoors with social distancing required.
Football games are taking place behind closed doors with no fans in the stadium.
The 21 March Celtic v Rangers game was under threat of cancellation but was given the green light on Friday.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, left, said the decision to allow the game to go ahead followed “extensive engagement” with the clubs, the SPFL, Police Scotland and Glasgow City Council.
He said: “Police Scotland have confirmed there will be a significant police presence in Glasgow to maintain public safety.
“I urge the fans to listen to the messages from their clubs, the police and government to stay at home.
“I also encourage Celtic and Rangers – and all other clubs in Scotland – to continue to encourage their supporters to stay home during games until they are permitted to return.”
Police Scotland warned that officers would make arrests if there were any mass gatherings after the match, which is due to kick off at noon.
Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins said the clubs had acted “really, really responsibly” to convey the “stay at home” message to fans, and he urged supporters to follow this advice.
Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins who will be the match commander at Parkhead.
‘Do the right thing’
Mr Higgins, pictured above,said: “Detailed plans are in place for an extensive and proportionate policing response to this weekend’s match at Celtic Park.
“Our approach throughout the pandemic has been to encourage people to do the right thing to avoid the spread of the disease.
“However, where officers encounter blatant breaches of the legislation they will not hesitate to enforce the law where necessary to ensure public safety.”
Responding to the positive police cases, a Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Police Scotland is following Scottish government and health guidance and where cases of coronavirus are identified, we work with the local health board and adhere to Test and Protect procedures.
“We have sufficient capacity and as a national service Police Scotland can flex resources should there be a requirement to do so.”
Meanwhile, Slavia Prague, who won the match, have said they have raised a criminal complaint against Rangers player Glen Kamara and continue to insist that their player Ondrej Kudela did not racially abuse the midfielder.
The statement came as UEFA confirmed it was opening an investigation into events at Ibrox on Thursday evening.
In a statement issued on Friday night, Kamara said that Kúdela used a derogatory term against him when he leaned into his ear.
The Europa League match between the sides was marked by a serious incident in the second half when Rangers players reacted angrily after Kudela approached Kamara with his hand over his mouth and said something that appeared to shock the midfielder and his teammate Bongani Zungu.
After the final whistle, Rangers manager Steven Gerrard said that Kamara had insisted he was racially abused.
Slavia instantly denied the allegation and a spokesperson claimed after the game that Kudela was “beaten with fists” by Kamara after the final whistle.
Now the club has issued a further statement, claiming that they have filed a criminal complaint through the Czech embassy in London.
It read: “SK Slavia Prague filed criminal complaint to Scottish police through the Embassy of the Czech Republic in London for physical assault on player Ondřej Kúdela.
“In the text, the names of people who witnessed the incident are stated, including UEFA representatives and Rangers FC manager Mr. Steven Gerrard.”
A previous article made a robust defence of Kudela’s character. “Ondřej Kúdela is one of the team captains elected in secret polls by the players who choose characters that enjoy their trust,” it read. “He is a decent and modest person with a strong moral integrity, popular amongst the players and fans, a football gentleman. He categorically denies and refutes any allegations of racism.
“We are shocked that his reputation and the club’s reputation are being smeared without a single piece of evidence. The only “alleged” evidence is the player covering his mouth – which Ondřej does on a regular basis when he talks to his teammates during our games.”
Rangers are adamant that Kamara was the victim of racist abuse and have called on UEFA to take firm and strong action.
Earlier on Friday, Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson said that the club “refuse to acknowledge any attempt to defend, deflect or deny the abuse Glen Kamara experienced”.
Police Scotland confirmed it had not received any reports of criminality from either club.
“Police Scotland has contacted club officials and assured them that should any allegation be received it will be investigated thoroughly.”