Dumbfries and Galloway – how George’s PR stunt could be costly for Queens

QUEEN of the South could not have had a worse start to the season. Sitting bottom of the table with just four points from nine games, all accrued against part time teams Alloa and Arbroath, and have the leakiest defence having conceded 25 goals, 14 of them in the last three games.

The last thing the Dumfries side need right now is adverse publicity.

Controversial politician George Galloway’s tweet from Palmerston on Boxing Day boasting that he attended the match against Dundee went down like a lead balloon with the Doonhamers support. At a time when the Dumfries and Galloway went down from tier one to tier four in line with the rest of mainland Scotland, it was a slap in the face for frustrated fans, who are still being locked out of grounds due to the Covid restrictions, yet Galloway was allowed to saunter into Palmerston with his family.

It prompted a half-hearted apology from the club in a dreadful statement where all they did was state that Galloway and his family followed the Covid protocols at all times, and apologise to supporters who were “upset at his attendance.” (Statement – https://www.qosfc.com/news-5315)

Social media has went into meltdown with many football fans, not just Queens fans, condemning a statement which missed the point and proven to be a spectacular own goal by the Queen of the South board. It has led to calls for stern action to be taken against the club by the SPFL and SFA, with huge fines and points deductions being taken into account.

But the attendance of a man who is not an official player, club staff or director at the club, or a reporter, TV cameraman or photographer, could also lead to action by the Scottish Government. If any business does not follow the rules and guidelines set out by Holyrood, all sorts of sanctions and penalties can be dished out. Such a case example was to the Draft Project bar in Aberdeen. After footage emerged of a high number of Scotland fans celebrating Euro 2020 qualification, and not maintaining social distancing, the owners were hit with a ban on selling alcohol until further notice, evidence that the government will take firm action where a blatant breach has taken place (Covid: Licence for Scotland celebrations bar expires https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-55006757).

Queens will try and argue that Galloway was a guest as his son plays for the club, but that won’t wash as no player is allowed to bring partners, parents or other family members. Galloway himself claims to be putting in sponsorship to the club, but that has not come to fruition yet, so again he’s not an official member of the club staff or board of directors.

To be brutally honest, Queen of the South don’t have a leg to stand on if the Scottish Government choose to intervene, and they are well within their rights to do so. Queen of the South face the prospect of a huge Government fine or even being banned from hosting matches at Palmerston for a period of time. Given that Celtic and Aberdeen were ordered by Nicola Sturgeon not to play matches for a short period after respective player breaches in August, those possibilities towards Queen of the South could easily come to fruition.

With regards to how the SPFL deal with the breach, again the club face huge punishment in terms of a fine, or worse with points deduction. Given their current predicament, the last thing Queen of the South need is points taken off them and falling further adrift of Alloa and Arbroath at the foot of the table. This might sound like a harsh option, but the SPFL’s recent history with the Kilmarnock and St Mirren punishments, albeit now suspended pending an SFA appeal, suggests that the points deduction could be a suitable punishment for what is blatant disregard of the Covid regulations.

Too often this season, Scottish Football have taken their privileged position for granted. Clubs are very fortunate to be able to play football at this time whilst leisure facilities across the country remain closed, so the incidents that have been occurring on a regular basis make football fans cringe at the ignorance of individuals and clubs during this time. We have already had the warning that the red card for football could happen, and it will if Scottish Football continues to ignore the strict guidelines that are in place for everybody’s safety during the pandemic.

Queen of the South should be more careful of who they let into Palmerston during a time that fans are not permitted to attend football matches. In the case of George Galloway, a man who is not afraid to stir trouble for his own political gain, they should stay clear of associating themselves with him any further than being a players father if they don’t want any adverse publicity on the club. Letting him in on Boxing Day has already caused furore amongst their own support, they’d better hope and pray that the SPFL and Scottish Government are a little more understanding or the consequences will be more severe.

J Bleasdale

I am a football fan with a passion for writing, briefly studied journalism before other priorities got in the way. Enjoy blogging as its my way of expressing my thoughts on Scottish Football. Even though I'm an Aberdeen fan primarily, I'm happy to express my impartial views on other clubs.