CARDIFF: Welsh club Connah’s Quay Nomads “had to turn a blind eye” to players who turned up feeling unwell for their Europa League 1-0 qualifying defeat by Dinamo Tbilisi in Wrexham on Thursday.
That statement by manager Andy Morrison followed the game, which went ahead despite three players having tested positive for Covid-19 beforehand. The trio and a fourth player, who had not had a positive test at that stage, are in self-isolation.
Morrison said: “Three lads have turned up tonight and they’re not well. It’s like ‘lads, I don’t want to hear it. I can’t hear it tonight that you’re ill… let’s just get through it’.
“I’ve been told that before the game and we’ve had to turn a blind eye to it and then you would have never noticed that anyone there tonight wasn’t feeling great.”
Three players had been confirmed as having tested positive for coronavirus before the second-round qualifying game, but Morrison later said it was four. Nomads lost 1-0 to a late Giorgi Gabedava penalty at Wrexham’s Racecourse
The Connah’s Quay club have denied “turning a blind eye” to coronavirus regulations and insist Morrison’s post-match comments have been “misconstrued”.
“In a post-match interview with various media outlets, manager Andy Morrison used the term ‘turned a blind eye’ which has unfortunately been misconstrued by many to mean that as a club we ignored Covid regulations,” they wrote.
“We would like to go on record and say that this is categorically untrue and that what the manager was referring to was a number of players who may not have played had we had a fully fit squad.
“Morrison clarified this in a tweet on his own personal Twitter account, indicating that a number of players had suffered from isolated pre-match upset stomach and headaches likely down to nerves due to being thrust into the starting line-up.”
Both headache and diarrhoea are listed by the World Health Organisation as Covid-19 symptoms.
Uefa, European football’s governing body, states in its coronavirus return to play protocol document: “Anyone involved in a match who develops any symptoms indicative of a potential Covid-19 infection must immediately isolate themselves at their hotel and must contact the relevant local health authorities for guidance.”
The Football Association of Wales says it will need to gather all the facts before commenting on Morrison’s comments and both Uefa and the Welsh Government say they will not be commenting specifically on this particular case.
Speaking on BBC Radio Wales Breakfast, Welsh Conservatives Shadow Health Minister Andrew RT Davies called for “drastic” action if the comments were correct.
“You are left pretty dumbfounded to be honest with you that when those symptoms are showing, that a match went ahead where there is considerable personal interaction just by the very nature of playing football,” said the Senedd member for South Wales Central.
“Obviously I’d have to wait to find out more information, but if the manager’s comments are correct then something drastic needs to happen here to make sure that safeguards are put in place that you can’t overrule the obvious symptoms and just play a match that could potentially spread to the wider community the virus effects.”