CELTIC chief Peter Lawwell has apologised to supporters as he admitted the club’s Dubai trip was a mistake.
The Hoops spent five days in the Middle East on a ‘warm weather training camp’.
Their trip came despite a rise in cases across the globe as a new strain of the virus emerged at the end of 2020.
Upon returning to Scotland, Christopher Jullien then tested positive for the virus which led to 13 first-team players being forced to self isolate along with three members of coaching staff.
That resulted in a 1-1 draw with Hibs at Celtic Park on evening all but ending the club’s hopes of winning their tenth title on the trot, with rivals Rangers 21 points clear at the top of the table.
Now, Lawwell has ‘profoundly apologised’ to supporters as he admitted the trip was a clear mistake.
Speaking to Celtic TV, he said: “It’s been an extremely difficult few days and on reflection, looking back and looking with hindsight and looking at the outcome of the trip, clearly it was a mistake.
“For that, I profoundly apologise to our supporters.
“We left here and the rationale for the camp was with very much the best intentions. Things haven’t gone the way we wanted to and the outcome is clearly very regrettable.”
Lawwell added: “If you look back over the last four years going to the camp in Dubai has been extremely successful and the decisions we made are entirely for the best interests of the team and the best interests of the club.
“What we planned to do was take them to these facilities again – which are world class – after a very, very hectic program in November and December.
“Which has in the past proven to be a great benefit in terms of performance after January. To take them there, to give them the training and get back to that performance level again. So that was the rationale.
“In terms of the fact surrounding the trp. We decided way back in November to go – and were permitted to go – clearly the landscape has changed significantly.
“Particularly in the run up to us going to Dubai in terms of the infection rate. But at the time Dubai was still part of the green corridor right up until the point that we left. The Green corridor for UK and Scottish travel.
“We were deploying the same protocols that we have done since the bubble started in June.
“We haven’t had one positive up until this stage in terms of using our own protocols through international travel. Flights we have been to the Europa League. I think we have had six international flights. We were at the training camp in the summer and the protocols that we use here when we are travelling and operating here in Scotland.
“So the protocols are robust, they are proven and that is what we put in place for the Dubai trip.
“So all the precautions and preparation we had were proven and as we have employed and been very successful here in Scotland. Overall the decision to go was for the right reasons. It was performance and of course at the end of the day the outcome of that has been very disappointing.”
However, the Parkhead supremo believes criticism of the club is ‘unfair’.
He said: “I certainly don’t see or agree with that and I think it is actually unfair.
“I do understand how people are questioning the decision to go. This club operates in the values and standards in terms of integrity, respect and humility are there. These traditions and values and standards have been developed over the years and we haven’t compromised them.
“Again, looking at the pandemic I think it is fair to say that we have done a lot as a club and the attitude we have to it has been responsible in terms of our record, how we have been protecting our people, our players, how we have really been at the forefront of getting Scottish football back to playing and training and of course through our foundation we have donated over £1million to the people who are worst affected by this horrendous pandemic.
“So I think it is unfair and I would like to reassure our supporters that the club that they believe they have is here. We have made a mistake and we apologise for that.
“But the club that they would like to have and have had is here.”
Lawwell has now called for supporters to be united
He added: “Looking forward, we have to work through this. This horrific pandemic has affected the whole of society. People here in Scotland, our supporters, our football and our club. Probably our club more than any.
“And these challenges have come upon us. They are not finished and there is going to be more significant challenges going forward and for our supporters and our community we really have to stick together. We’ve got to be united and face these challenges together.
“We’ve got to keep fighting and we will keep fighting over the coming months and put the club in a position that we can maximise the potential and take this magnificent football club as far as we possibly can.”