Tranmere Rovers Football Club can tonight confirm two first team players have tested positive for Covid-19.
The two players were not involved in today’s game at Salford City, and are now self-isolating. The players’ identities will remain anonymous, but the Club can confirm they are both in good health.
As a consequence of the two positive cases, a number of first team players have also gone into self-isolation due to their close contact with the two players. Furthermore, another player has had to self isolate due to an unconnected track and trace notification. The identities of all of the players involved will remain anonymous.
The Club became aware of the two positive tests, and therefore the need for players who had been in contact with them to isolate, early in the week. When the situation was exacerbated by a further player receiving an unconnected track and trace notification to isolate later in the week, together with an international call up and a new injury to another player, it was clear that the Club would be without ten first team players on Saturday, seven of who were in the starting line up for our previous game.
The Club would be able to field a team but only by playing players out of position and fielding youth players. We also were unable to name seven players on the bench this afternoon.
Given the situation, the Club spoke to the EFL regarding whether it would be possible to postpone the match. We were informed that if we did so there would be a formal investigation, as would happen in the case of any failure to fulfil a fixture. We were also informed that as there was no medical advice that it was unsafe to play, there was no guarantee that the Club would not suffer a deduction of up to 15 points as a consequence. This was not a risk we felt prepared to take.
Tranmere Rovers Football Club takes the well-being of its players very seriously and will always adhere to the guidance provided by the Government, although in this case that placed us at a very significant competitive disadvantage.
We feel it is unfortunate that by doing the right thing by our players and requiring them to isolate if they may potentially have been exposed to the virus, we have had to field a play with a very depleted squad.
We have a concern that this may encourage others not to test players, or not to adhere strictly to the self isolation rules. We would welcome the opportunity to have a dialogue with the EFL and other clubs about the need for some very clear guidance regarding an issue which is not going away any time soon.
It does not feel right that clubs who may find themselves in Covid hotspots may be put at a competitive disadvantage when virus-related absences are not as a result of them breaching the very strict protocols in place for player welfare.
It also seems inconsistent to us that if a football club has three or more players called up for international duty, they can postpone a fixture, however, the same does not apply when a club's playing squad is impacted by Covid-19.
Addressing the situation in his post-match press conference following the draw at Salford City, manager Mike Jackson said: “We had two positive tests at the start of the week.
“The lads that are isolating are all safe and well. The priority for us now, as a Club, is always the safety of the players and their families.
“We can’t take risks with that. We have done everything that the protocols have asked of us, we’ve been right to the letter on it. It’s bigger than a football match, so that’s the way we’ve gone about it."
The Club will be making no further comment and the focus now will be preparing for next weekend’s match at Newport County.