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Celtic captain Scott Brown has strongly defended the club's controversial trip to Dubai by saying "sometimes you're allowed to sit on the sunbeds and have some down-time as well."
The situation surrounding Celtic's warm weather training in the UAE has caused uproar in recent days.
An image of Hoops manager Neil Lennon and club captain Brown having a pint at the team hotel emerged online and since, a total of 13 players are currently self-isolating after Christopher Jullien tested positive for COVID-19, including Lennon and assistant manager John Kennedy.
Scottish FA chief Ian Maxwell has confirmed that a compliance officer is launching an investigation into pictures from the club's Dubai training camp.
"Everyone is going to question everything - that's the modern-day era." Brown said. "Everyone has a say in everything we do these days.
"We got the okay from the government and we made sure we followed the guidelines from there. We went out and worked hard on training - that's what the whole thing was for us.
"People don't see our training daily or see how hard we worked.
"Sometimes you're allowed to sit on the sunbeds and have some down-time as well. What we do away from the cameras in training is for us to benefit in games.
"As you've seen in the last three or four seasons, we've come back from Dubai and done really well because we work extremely hard. It's all about the preparation for the next five or six months of the season.
"The manager's philosophy, which he puts on to us, is how we can work in different ways and different shapes. We worked on that all week and that's what Dubai has been for us in the last three or four seasons now."
@talkSPORT This is @CelticFC in Dubai on Sunday afternoon after the old firm defeat and clearly in breach of Covid rules. Neil Lennon and Scott Brown sinking pints by the pool. pic.twitter.com/BLEyzPOOWV- Blabbermouth (@Blabber08756401) January 3, 2021
Brown's comments come after Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said the warm weather training camp 'should be looked into'.
"For me, the question for Celtic is what is the purpose of them being there?" said Sturgeon. "I've seen a comment from the club that said it's more for rest and recuperation than it is for training.
"I've also seen some photographs, and I can only comment on what I've seen as I don't know the full circumstances, that would raise a question in my mind of whether all the rules of what elite players have to do within their bubbles, if social distancing is being complied with.
"There are things there that should be looked into.
"Elite sport, and this is not just about Celtic or football, elite sport has been in a privileged position at many points over the past year doing things that many of the general public can't do.
"And as long as that is the case, as we all want our sports teams to do well and train properly, as long as that is the case it's really important that don't abuse it and use it for the purposes that it's intended.
"And that applies to Celtic as it would to anyone else in that position."
In response to the Scottish Government statement, the club has issued the following response:- Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) January 4, 2021
'The training camp was arranged a number of months ago & approved by all relevant footballing authorities & @scotgov through the Joint Response Group on 12th November 2020.
The team travelled prior to any new lockdown being in place, to a location exempt from travel restrictions. The camp, the same one as we have undertaken for a number of years has been fully risk assessed.- Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) January 4, 2021
If the club had not received Scottish Government approval then we would not have travelled.'- Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) January 4, 2021
Neil Lennon has also spoken out about the situation, saying all the appropriate protocols were put in place during the training camp.
"As the club said yesterday, the camp was arranged some time ago, with the full consultation of the footballing authorities and given approval by the Scottish Government." he told Celtic's official website.
"Of course, we understand that we are in very unique and difficult times and there are now even tougher restrictions in place at home, but the camp is risk assessed and arranged in conjunction with Scottish football's Joint Response Group.
"We have put in place all the appropriate protocols and we have undertaken the camp as we see the sporting benefits from it and hope it can do for us what it has done in the past.
"From the first day of camp yesterday and into today, the boys have been working tremendously hard as we always do on a camp which has served us so well over recent seasons. And that will be the format for the rest of the week, very tough, but productive and important sessions to get us ready for the second half of the season."
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