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UK COVID-19 Inquiry: Nicola Sturgeon fury at Aberdeen FC over rules breach revealed in text message

Nicola Sturgeon branded a statement issued by Aberdeen FC during the COVID pandemic as a "complacent abomination", text messages have revealed.

Scotland's then first minister hit out at the football team after eight players breached strict social distancing rules during a pub trip in August 2020.

Two players tested positive for the virus and a further six were instructed to self-isolate for 14 days, eventually forcing the team's match with St Johnstone to be postponed.

Ahead of the Scottish Premiership game being called off, Aberdeen FC issued a statement describing the breaches as a "bitter blow" and a "harsh reminder of the severity and speed of spread of this virus".

Dave Cormack, the club's chairman, said a full investigation would be carried out and all those linked to the club would be reminded "what is, and what is not, acceptable in the current climate".

He added: "We now have to focus on preparing for Saturday's game under extremely difficult circumstances."

In a text shown at the UK COVID-19 Inquiry, which is currently sitting in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon criticised the statement in a group chat with national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch and Joe FitzPatrick, who was minister for public health, sport and wellbeing at the time.

Ms Sturgeon posted a link to the statement on 6 August 2020, saying: "This statement - from a club that's just allowed its players to breach the rules - is a complacent abomination!"

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In another conversation between Professor Leitch and Mr FitzPatrick, the national clinical director can be seen calling for the sports minister to force Aberdeen to cancel its games rather than postponing, meaning the Pittodrie club would forfeit the points.

Professor Leitch said: "I think postponing rewards bad behaviour, cancelling and forfeiting the points seems much more appropriate."

Mr FitzPatrick responded: "Postpone and the eight players barred from the game?"

Professor Leitch replied: "Yep. That works."

In a briefing a few days later - and after a Celtic player failed to quarantine after a trip to Spain, Ms Sturgeon issued a "yellow card" warning to Scottish football.

She said of the rules: "We can't have privileged football players just deciding that they're not going to bother."

Ms Sturgeon added: "Consider today the yellow card, the next time will be the red card because you will leave us with absolutely no choice."