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Sean Wallace: SPFL must review Covid rules after farcical refusal to cancel Aberdeen’s clash with Dundee

A small number of Aberdeen fans watch the 2-1 defeat of Dundee due to Covid-19 restrictions.
A small number of Aberdeen fans watch the 2-1 defeat of Dundee due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The SPFL’s decision to reject Dundee’s request to cancel their game against Aberdeen brought embarrassment to Scottish football.

It also put players and officials of both clubs at needless risk after a positive test was recorded in the Dundee camp.

The Pittodrie clash went ahead due to a rule where clubs must fulfil fixtures if they have at least 13 ‘fit’ players and one keeper.

The 42 SPFL clubs voted for that regulation – but that doesn’t mean the rule book cannot be ripped up and rewritten again.

Dundee manager James McPake during the Premiership match at Aberdeen.

A quick glance at Dundee’s bench for their 2-1 loss to Aberdeen proves the 13 player rule is not fit for purpose.

Dundee’s bench consisted of two keepers, 17-year-0ld rookie Callum Lamb and assistant manager Dave Mackay, 40, who retired in 2016.

What constitutes a ‘fit player’? Surely not a 40-year-old who hasn’t kicked a ball competitively for five years?

Teenager Lamb has not had a minute of first team action.

Aberdeen’s Ryan Hedges celebrates with Christian Ramirez (right) after making it 1-1 against Dundee.

Dundee’s only other option was to field Harrison Sharp, one of two keepers on the bench, as an emergency outfield player.

This is the top flight of Scottish football, not a Sunday amateur kickabout where you mix and match with who is available on the day.

Allowing this game to go ahead damaged Scottish football’s credibility.

Would the top flight of any other county have rules in place that force a club to name a 40-year-old sub who quit playing five years ago?

Would any other governing body stick so rigidly to rules that allow that farcical situation to occur? I doubt it very much.

The Dundee squad warms up before facing Aberdeen.

Dundee’s bench at Pittodrie was not a good look for Scottish football and it was through no fault of the Dens Park club.

Dundee followed all protocols in testing daily and attempted to get the game cancelled.

Thankfully Dundee boss James McPake was able to field a strong starting XI and they pushed Aberdeen hard.

However, he was unable to make a substitution and would have had a major problem if Dundee suffered an injury.

There seems to be desperation from the SPFL to get games played.

SPFL company secretary and director of operations Calum Beattie recently said failure to administer rules consistently ‘could lead to clubs choosing not to fulfil specific fixtures, which would have massive implications for sporting fairness’.

Where is the ‘sporting fairness’ in Dundee being unable to field a substitute?

Or the prospect of turning to a bench with a 40-year-old, a teenage rookie and two keepers to replace an outfield player due to injury?

Obviously completing the Premiership campaign is vital as no one wants a repeat of the utter carnage and chaos following the league’s early curtailment in 2019-20.

However, there must be a balance and common sense should have prevailed when Dundee requested to have the game called off.

The safety of players, management and officials should be of paramount importance.

Aberdeen and Dundee players wait on a corner in the Boxing Day clash at Pittodrie.

Dundee are testing every day like all Premiership teams, but Covid has got into their camp. That is a reality of the precarious situation society as a whole is in now.

A positive result was posted by a Dundee player on the day of the Aberdeen game and another four were identified as close contacts.

In rejecting calls to postpone the fixture, there immediately became an added, needless risk to the health of Dundee players, officials and those at Aberdeen.

It goes beyond the 90 minutes of action on Boxing Day.

Players and officials have to go back to their families with the knowledge they have had to unnecessarily mix after a positive test was returned.

Dundee’s Cammy Kerr and Aberdeen’s Jonny Hayes battle for possession at Pittodrie.

The Premiership is now in a near three-week break.

The top flight clubs and the other 30 from the lower leagues who are playing on need to find a better solution to the 13 player rule in January.

An option that will offer leeway and allow for common sense to prevail.

Crucial winter transfer window – with uncertainty in the air

Uncertainty will have crept into the January transfer window with many Scottish clubs due to the fresh coronavirus restrictions.

Clubs do not know for certain if restrictions on crowd numbers will be eased by Holyrood following the winter break.

The absence of the vast majority of supporters through the turnstiles will inevitably have a negative impact on finances – and transfer window budgets.

January will be a pivotal window for Aberdeen and manager Stephen Glass as they cannot afford to exit weaker.

Aberdeen’s Ryan Hedges in action during the 2-1 defeat of Dundee.

Aberdeen boss Glass has already admitted the club look to have lost the battle to secure Ryan Hedges on a new contract.

Blackburn Rovers are set to launch a fresh bid to land Hedges after an offer of less than £500,000 was rejected in the summer.

It is understood Championship Blackburn’s preferred option is to secure Hedges on a pre-contract.

At least that would give the Dons the attacker’s services for the rest of the season.

However, they would also lose out on any transfer fee should Hedges agree a pre-contract and leave in the summer.

It is a fine balance between cashing in during January or hoping Hedges can deliver on the pitch in the second half of the season to offset the loss of that fee.

Aberdeen can also expect interest in teenage right-back Calvin Ramsay.

The 18-year-old is on the radar of English Premier League clubs including Manchester United, Everton and Liverpool.

Aberdeen’s Calvin Ramsay warms up before the defeat of Dundee.

Now back after a recent injury absence, Ramsay has been superb this season.

Aberdeen could also expect interest from south of the border in Lewis Ferguson, who netted the winner against Dundee.

A bid of under £2m from Premier League Watford for Ferguson was rejected by the Reds in May.

However, he has broken into the Scotland squad since that approach and continues to impress for the Reds.

At least the Dons are in the driving seat with Ferguson and Ramsay are both are contracted to the club until summer 2024.

Cove Rangers show title credentials

Cove Rangers underlined their League One title credentials with a sensational December.

Paul Hartley’s in-form side won all five games this month to move clear at the top of the table.

They also did it in style by scoring 15 goals and conceding just two in that run.

Robbie Leitch celebrates with Cove teammates after scoring.

Cove have been a fantastic addition to the SPFL since earning a promotion from the Highland League via the pyramid play-off route.

If they continue this relentless form they will be playing in the Championship next season.

They are on a remarkable rise that shows no signs of slowing down.

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