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Jim McInally worries lower leagues will pay for SFA’s official blunder

Peterhead manager Jim McInally fears the SFA’s blunder which saw them use an official who should have been self-isolating prevent stop the lower leagues from restarting.

Graeme Stewart ran the line at Easter Road on Saturday during Hibs 2-0 win over Hamilton.

However, the official should have been in isolation following colleague David Roome’s positive Covid-19 test after the pair and referee Bobby Madden returned from refereeing a Greek Super League game between Panathinaikos and Olympiacos last Sunday week.

Madden had been down to officiate at Ross County’s win over Celtic on Sunday, but was pulled out hours before the game.

With the Scottish Government already putting pressure on football following previous Covid-19 breaches Blue Toon boss McInally thinks the SFA’s mistake may lead to the lower leagues not be given the go-ahead to restart.

Football below the Championship has been suspended since January 11 with the next update on a possible return due next Monday.

McInally said: “I think any chance we did have of getting back playing again might have gone now because of what’s happened.

“At the end of the day the SFA need to be held responsible for that and we (the lower leagues) might have to deal with the consequences.

“I don’t blame the officials one bit for going because I think we’d all have gone to Greece if somebody gave us the opportunity.

“But it came after the Scottish Government chastised the Prime Minister Boris Johnson for non-essential travel to Scotland.

“Yet the SFA decided it was essential to send officials to Greece to referee a domestic league game.

Linesman Graeme Stewart at Easter Road at the weekend

“It’s just an incredible decision by somebody and I fear we will pay the price for it.

“Jurgen Klopp wasn’t able to return to Germany for his mother’s funeral, yet we were able to send officials to Greece for a game – not even a European game – just a domestic game, it’s beyond belief.”

McInally added: “The SFA stopped the lower leagues and went on about people travelling the country untested and they’ve allowed this to happen.

“Last weekend we also had a referee (Gavin Duncan) turning up at a game (Alloa v Queen of the South) without having taken a Covid-19 test.

“Between that and what’s happened this week I think it could end our chances of restarting because there’s no doubt the Scottish Government will be asking the question of where we go from here.

“In light of what’s happened the government could stop football totally. How irresponsible was it? It beggars belief.

“It’s unbelievable the SFA took the game on for a start – I’m not blaming the officials – but the fact they were given the opportunity in these times beggars belief.”

SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell apologised for the incident at the weekend and said: “While the circumstances are complex the reality is that under Scottish Government guidelines all match officials involved in the trip should be considered close contacts.

SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell

“I have reiterated that the positive case and subsequent contact tracing should have been undertaken in line with the Scottish Government’s guidelines and the established system.

“I have apologised to Hibernian and Hamilton for the unnecessary risk of having an assistant referee at a match when he should have been self-isolating, however much it is mitigated by two negative tests in the build-up to the match.

“As part of an internal review, I have asked the respective departments to ensure we maintain the highest standards of compliance relevant to Scottish Government protocols.”

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