Journalist Jim Levack, digs a little deeper into the sketchy circumstances that surrounded last weekend’s match suspension with Bristol City.
Injury-ravaged Bristol City could still face sanctions over the controversial postponement of their clash with Brentford despite the rearrangement of the fixture for next Wednesday.
Medical experts from the EFL are “actively examining” the timeline that led to the game being axed just over 24 hours before kick-off.
The Robins prompted raised eyebrows and allegations of “Sunday League” antics from Bees fans after claiming some of their players were showing COVID symptoms during training.
The anger came against a backdrop of injuries to 11 first team regulars and looks unlikely to disappear now the Robins have recalled a flurry of loan players and welcomed back several first-choice starters.
It will be fuelled further by the fact that only one positive coronavirus test has been returned for Kasey Palmer, who was out on loan at the time of the ‘scare’.
City claimed they were unable to get the players tested because the EFL-appointed laboratory was shut on New Year’s Day. But medical experts from the EFL have asked for a “step by step account” and insist a robust probe into the incident is still very much still ongoing.
The EFL spokesman said: “There will be conversations between our medical advisors and those at the club to determine the exact details of what happened, and that investigation is ongoing.
“If there is something that the club needs to answer, then they will have to answer it and there will be transparency.”
He said investigations always take place for any situation such as a frozen pitch, but added that “injuries or loss of form” were also significant factors that are looked into.
The spokesman said “a safety first approach” would be a major factor in any inquiry, sparking fears among supporters that this may be a get-out clause for City and any other club to use going forward.
The spokesman revealed that the request to postpone came from Bristol City, whose CEO also sits on the EFL board.
But that account was contradicted by Robins boss Dean Holden when he said; “The EFL made the right call to call the game off. It was a disappointing and we were fully prepared to play the game” before adding that his squad was en route to west London when the game was called off.
He outlined the sequence of events to the press: “We came in on Friday for a normal preparation day to do some video analysis and some out on the grass training, and it was clear that out on the grass there were some symptoms in the squad.
“We weren’t able to do any tests on New Year’s Day ahead of the game on the Saturday. We carried on as normal – we got about 55 minutes into the journey and I got the phone call that the game had been postponed.”
He said the club coaches headed back to Bristol, where the players spent some time in isolation until the negative COVID tests were returned.
The phrase ‘match suspended’ was originally used but the EFL spokesman insisted this was the same as postponement, and stressed that the normal investigation would be undertaken.
Everyone agrees that the safety and wellbeing of footballers, as well as club staff and their families, is of paramount importance, and nobody is suggesting for one split-second that Covid isn’t serious and a very real risk to us all. But is not irresponsible to ask for clarity in this instance based on the conflicting information.