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Positive COVID-19 test at Stevenage FC, Chairman calls for clarity on testing

25 September 2020

Jim Steele

Stevenage FC had a player report with mild COVID-19 symptoms yesterday...

He was tested immediately and the result this morning confirmed he had contracted Coronavirus. The player is currently self-isolating in-line with Government guidelines.

The club immediately cancelled its travel plans that was due to take the squad to their away game at Bradford City tomorrow and tested all players and First Team staff.

Results from the tests will be known and acted upon first thing tomorrow morning, in consultation with the EFL.

Stevenage Chairman Phil Wallace has called for clarity and support with regards to testing players for COVID-19 saying, "What we have been told to do – only test players and management with symptoms – might have been acceptable when numbers were low but things have changed and when it happens in your club, you feel an obligation to test everyone, if only to reassure them.

"But what do we do if another individual reports with symptoms on Monday – test everyone all over again? This isn’t the right way and nor is only testing symptomatic players. The EFL simply can’t leave it to clubs to decide who gets tested and who doesn’t for all sorts of fairly obvious reasons.

"With what’s in front of us, I believe we have to find a way to get weekly testing funded. This virus is here to stay so each and every one of our players will probably catch it at some point. If we test on a specific day each week, we have a chance of managing the spread within our squads.

"We may have to accept that certain lads are missing for two weeks once a season, but that is something we all live with every game in terms of injuries.

"The key issue is who pays for it. Lower league clubs will be on their knees come the end of this year with no income from crowds. Survival is by no means certain for a large number of these clubs. Yet we all continue to pay player wages whilst we play behind closed doors, in the spirit of our agreement with our players and the PFA.

"Today I paid out £3,500 for tests to ensure the welfare of our players for a few days, at a time when our Club is scrambling for every pound. When it is reported that the PFA have £55 million in retained earnings and if their main role is the welfare of their members, one might wonder why the PFA are not paying for these tests.

"They would make a thumping loss this season looking after their members, but is that going to put much of a dent in £55 million, if that reported figure is true? If testing costs can be driven down so that a squad and management can be tested for less than £2,000, then testing the whole of League One and League Two weekly during the season will still see them with well over £50 million left.

"Alternatively, the PFA could agree to allow us to test weekly and charge each player – or perhaps they share the cost with the players. There has to be a solution which protects players, yet allows clubs to continue playing and, therefore, paying their wages. We shouldn’t have to stop playing again if we manage the virus weekly and are able to smooth out positive tests.

"What we are doing now – only testing folk that have symptoms and allowing each club to decide whether or not it tests further - is going to result in mass infections all at once and games cancelled as a result.

"I have no medical training or knowledge, but I can see trouble ahead when it is lit up in lights. We have to find a way of funding regular testing, so Clubs can have a chance of survival.

"Then we have to find a way to get crowds back into our open stadiums, letting our individual Safety Groups rule on whether a club is approved to provide a safe environment for watching football, not the government.

"Otherwise what is the point of being controlled by an independent Safety Advisory Group? We need crowds back to survive and every EFL club is more than capable of complying with whatever requirements are requested by our respective Safety Advisory Group."

Further information regarding the test results and Saturday's match will be published in due course.

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