Plans for Scottish football’s big kick-off have potentially been dealt a blow following a major coronavirus outbreak at St Mirren.
Seven members of staff at the Paisley club have tested positive for Covid-19 nine days before the Scottish Premiership is due to start.
St Mirren confirmed several members of their coaching staff had tested positive but no players.
The Scottish football authorities announced that clubs would have to revert to twice-weekly testing after the requirements were relaxed earlier this month.
A statement from the league and governing body read: “The Joint Response Group has been notified that St Mirren Football Club has today returned seven positive tests for Covid-19.
“We immediately contacted the Scottish government and the office of the clinical director for Scotland to relay this information.
“As a consequence, St Mirren’s planned friendly match at home to St Johnstone, scheduled to take place on Saturday 25 July, has been cancelled.
“In light of this and other recent events, the JRG hereby notifies Scottish Premiership clubs that with immediate effect they must revert to twice-weekly testing protocols until further notice.”
St Mirren are due to kick off their season at home to Livingston on August 1.
In the first three weeks of coronavirus testing since contact training resumed for Scottish Premiership clubs, only one positive case out of 2,780 tests had been recorded, for an unnamed Aberdeen player.
Scottish Government figures showed 55 people in the country had tested positive in the four days before St Mirren’s cases emerged.
The worrying news comes after some relatively minor hiccups in the testing processes in the past week.
We have received our Covid-19 test results. All of our players and staff have tested negative.— Motherwell FC (@MotherwellFC) July 22, 2020
We are now travelling to Ibrox ahead of the planned 8pm kick-off, as we await confirmation of Rangers' negative test results.
Hibernian called off their pre-season game against Ross County at short notice on Saturday after failing to get their players’ Covid-19 results back in time, and Wednesday’s friendly between Rangers and Motherwell was delayed by two hours as both teams waited for clearance.
A Scottish Government spokesman told BBC Scotland: “These tests are not carried out by the Scottish Government but by private laboratories contracted by the clubs.
“We are aware of some issues with delays on test results. Although unfortunate, it is encouraging that clubs have taken the appropriate action in cancelling or postponing matches when the necessary tests haven’t been cleared.”
Reports claim the Scottish football authorities have since warned clubs that failure to adhere to protocols risked removal of government approval for matches to take place, and would not help their case to get supporters back into grounds.
📸 PIC OF THE DAY: Back Home. pic.twitter.com/pZe3Vnaj0n— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) July 23, 2020
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard praised his players for dealing with the delay ahead of their 4-0 win at Ibrox in midweek.
Gerrard told Rangers TV: “I think we are going to face many tests both on and off the pitch and we as a group have to be ready and we always have to make sure our standards are good.
“It’s not an ideal preparation when you get delays, but it can happen and that can be due to the weather or unexpected circumstances.”
There were further teething problems on Wednesday as a number of Motherwell season-ticket holders could not connect to a live stream of the fixture, which will be the only way of seeing most matches in the coming months.
The Lanarkshire club apologised to their supporters and promised issues would be ironed out in time for their first home Premiership game.
Motherwell stated that the change to the kick-off time had caused problems with resources and planned maintenance on the streaming service has been scheduled for the new kick-off time.
A club statement added: “Both of these factors were out of the ordinary and we are confident things will be smoother for our first home league match against Dundee United.”