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Martindale: Scottish Premiership needs an immediate ‘circuit break’

The Livingston boss has called for an halt to league fixtures due to Omicron.

Martindale: Scottish Premiership needs an immediate ‘circuit break’ SNS Group

Livingston manager David Martindale has called on the SPFL to shut down immediately and allow a two-week “circuit break” to help deal with the rapid spread of the omicron variant.

While government has introduced measures to attempt to slow the virus, and advised people to be more careful of their contacts, Scottish football has already seen signs of the virus affecting top flight squads.

Dundee United were forced to shut down training this week after a player reported a positive test, while new rules on isolation mean Chris Kane will miss games for St Johnstone.

The Premiership is entering its busiest period of the season, with some clubs still to play as many as five games before the winter break begins on January 3.

Martindale says that’s too long to wait and immediate action is required.

He 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 manager says that the plans in place for the traditional winter break shouldn’t come into anyone’s thinking and the authorities have to look at the logistics before the competition is affected by Covid-0struck clubs having weakened squads.

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 head coach Robbie Neilson disagreed with Martindale’s assessment, saying fans “need” football over the festive period.

“I don’t think we need that at the moment,” he said. “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.”