David Martindale calls for Scottish Premiership ‘circuit-break’ due to Covid-19

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Livingston manager David Martindale believes Scottish football should speed up its two-week shutdown as the Omicron variant begins to bite.

Dundee United have been trying to manage Covid-19 issues ahead of their trip to Ibrox on Saturday and St Johnstone were without Chris Kane during their 2-0 defeat by Rangers on Wednesday after a member of his household tested positive.

Kane will have to self-isolate for 10 days under new rules, whereas before he would have been free to play if he returned a negative PCR test.

The new wave of the pandemic is set to hit during Scottish football’s busiest period, which immediately precedes a two-week winter break for the top flight.

Martindale, whose team host Ross County on Saturday, said: “If you were asking me what would I do right now – I would shut the league down for two weeks. I would have a circuit-break and go again.

“I don’t believe it’s fair on teams even when they meet the criteria of 13 players, so many over-18, two goalkeepers. I don’t believe it’s fair for the competition and the product.

“A lot of these Covid issues are unrelated to the football club. I’ve got a member of staff who lives with her mum and she phoned in today, she can’t come in. She’s not got Covid but her mum has.

“My chef and one of the ladies at the front desk, they had a staff night out last week – they are isolated from the players – they went for a meal and two of them have potentially got Covid.

“Is that going to drip-feed into the football department very soon? I would imagine so.

“My daughter is at school so how many households is Georgia mixing with on a daily basis? Is Covid potentially going to come into my house, into Livingston Football Club? I think it is. Is there anything we can do to stop it? I genuinely don’t think there is.

“So we need to be clever on how we approach this. I think it’s going to have a massive impact on Scottish football over the next couple of weeks.”

The cinch Premiership winter break, which starts after the Edinburgh derby on January 3, offers a potential opportunity to delay the festive schedule.

Martindale said: “We are booked to go away somewhere but is that really why you wouldn’t do it? It isn’t, is it?

“Is it fair that Dundee United could potentially be going into a game at Ibrox, and I don’t know the situation, with six or seven players missing?

“Dundee United are just the start. This is going to affect us all and I think it’s going to get worse as the days and weeks go on.

“Could we go on a circuit-break and start two weeks earlier in the winter window? It’s easy for me sitting here saying that, I understand the logistics with the SPFL and SFA, but for me that is an option.

“I don’t think it’s fair that, let’s say, a week down the line we take this decision and three or four clubs have had disappointing results due to the Omicron variant. I don’t think that’s fair.

“There is nothing as a football club we can do to stop this happening.”

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson was not in agreement with Martindale’s idea.

Speaking ahead of his team’s trip to face Dundee on Saturday, Neilson said: “I don’t think we need that at the moment. We’ve got the break coming up in January so that hopefully will give us a chance to see it out a little bit.

“One of the things you’ve got to remember with football is people’s lives revolve around it and they need it over this festive period, hence the reason there are a lot of games.

“We have an obligation to make sure we don’t put ourselves in areas we’re going to cause ourselves problems but also to make sure we put games on.

“We just need to make sure we keep our house in order and the players and staff follow the protocols and look after themselves, and hopefully we can get through this again.

“Touch wood, we’ve managed to keep things negative but sometimes it can be outwith your control so we just need to keep following the procedures.”

Ross County manager Malky Mackay feels clubs need to “keep with the best practices” while continuing to play, pointing out that they have insisted substitutes and staff are socially-distanced in “red zones” in stands.

“When you could decide if you wanted a red zone or not, we were one of the few clubs who decided to keep the red zones going,” he said.

“It is interesting when you go to some places, as to what that red zone looks like and at times I query that red zone at certain grounds.

“Then you have the choice, do you have a red zone or fans in the stadium, which I find strange and, we have to choose a red zone instead of having fans in the stadium.

“So there is a lot of things that clubs could help themselves and I am not talking about spending fortunes, I am talking about best practice and being sensible about what approach you take in terms of what is a bubble and what a red zone looks like.

“No, we will continue to do that we have to do while we are doing it and keep playing.”

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