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Covid advice ignored

Football | Published:

THE Jersey FA will approach government health officials to discuss ‘formal procedures’ for football after it was revealed that two Jersey Bulls players appeared for their local club just hours after returning to the Island – without a negative Covid-19 test.

Two Jersey Bulls players appeared for their club side on Saturday just hours after returning to the Island without a negative Covid-19 test.

The sport’s governing body has contacted St Paul’s for an explanation after the pair, who played for Bulls in London on Friday night, both featured in Saturday afternoon’s Combination Premiership victory over Grouville FC, despite requests for them not to do so.

It is understood that JFA officials were contacted by the government’s Public Health department on Friday, after they were made aware of the players’ plan to play at Clos des Pauvres.

While no laws were broken, Government of Jersey guidance encourages passengers returning from ‘green’ regions to ‘take reasonable steps to limit the time they spend away from their residence’ while awaiting their test result – and to ‘limit their social contact during this time’.

Both players’ names have been removed from Saturday’s squad list on the FA’s ‘Full-Time’ website.

JFA chief executive David Kennedy said: ‘On Friday evening I contacted Jersey Bulls and asked them to inform the players that they were strongly advised not to play for their local clubs on Saturday. We also emailed those clubs on Saturday with reasons why Public Health had passed on this advice to us.

‘We are aware that players did indeed play for one of our local clubs on Saturday and we have contacted that club and asked for an explanation as to why those players did not follow this advice.’

Kennedy added: ‘Overall we have been delighted with how the football community have responded to its obligations in managing Covid and understand that we are asking them to consider the moral and ethical responsibilities, rather than just abiding by the rules.

‘We will continue to work with Public Health to consider more formal procedures for football, because currently there are no rules to say that there has been any wrongdoing.’

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St Paul’s manager Andy Sheppard says the club conducted a risk assessment to allow the players to play and admits he did not see Saturday’s emailed warning before the game.

He said: ‘An email was sent two hours before kick-off to our club secretary with guidance from Public Health and it directed us to the government website. I was already at the ground and I didn’t see it in time.

‘I phoned the JFA last Wednesday and asked for advice and we were told to follow a risk assessment. We took steps to minimise the risk: the players arrived later than the rest, went into the changing rooms after the others had left and changed and warmed up separately. They sat away from the main dugout and after the game got changed separately.

‘They [the JFA] said they’d received guidance from Public Health but they didn’t give us details of the guidance... the whole thing is very ambiguous.

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‘If the JFA are making it clear that this is their stance, then it won’t happen again.’

Competitive football was permitted to return in August after the Government of Jersey lifted restrictions on team sports with ‘fleeting’ contact.

Jersey Bulls director Russell Le Feuvre said: ‘Our club policy is that we won’t select any player who has left the Island on holiday, for example, until they’ve had a negative test result back because it could impact their team-mates, the opposition and the officials. We’ve said to the players that when they come back we want them to be sensible until they’ve had their result, which means keeping a low profile, not attending gatherings and trying not to interact with other people. To be fair most of the players have been exemplary ... I think this is an error on their part and both players probably regret the decision they made.

‘Everyone in football is delighted with how hard the health officials on the Island are working to allow sport to return to normal and they’re producing advice to keep us safe. We have got to follow that advice.’

Jason Fox

By Jason Fox
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