Sunderland CEO, Jim Rodwell, who hasn’t been a fans favourite to say the least, has slated the EFL’s decision to allow SAFC’s clash with Wimbledon go ahead on Tuesday evening despite an ‘outbreak’ of COVID at the club. He also updated fans on the situation regarding the exit strategy from the pandemic the club hope to pursue.
“We had eight unavailable that had been available to us on Saturday. It was a challenge, to put it mildly, but we had a lot of young players playing last night and they did us proud. We had players getting off the treatment couch, and they did us proud. We became aware there was a situation with one of our players at around lunchtime on Monday, which was unfortunate as that was when our U23s game kicked off, which ruled out the majority of those players being available. So we found out one players was unavailable, then you go through the process of trying to understand who this individual has been close to, and then those players need to test and self-isolate. On Tuesday, we had another two players report symptoms and so they had to be pulled out of the squad. It's was some challenge for our manager. I think it's the uncertainty of the sanctions, to be honest. That's the problem. It's the uncertainty of what might have happened had we called the game off, because I think there's a misconception about how this actually works, that the league agrees to postpone a game. It's the club that unilaterally decides to call a game off. In normal times, that's incredibly serious. At the moment, there's a little bit more understanding around it. Nevertheless, the way the system works, it automatically becomes a misconduct charge against the football club. The matter is investigated and you're then likely to be held up before a tribunal. If it's then decided that your protocols haven't been followed correctly, you could be subject to sanctions which my understanding is could be anything from nothing, to a fine, to points deductions. We're in unprecedented times and no one is quite sure, there's no precedent to work upon in terms of what they might look like. Though several games have been called off, nobody has got as far yet as going before a tribunal. It was difficult, the EFL couldn't give us that clarity because they're not sure either, and as the tribunal process is independent. So we put a team out and I'm proud of every single one of them. We certainly explored that and I think that it would have been the best thing to have called the game off. I just think we were asking people to play last night that weren't in a position to play. We had two lads who were at least two weeks away from being fit, who hadn't done any training and who hadn't played with several weeks. Some of the U23s had played 90 minutes the day before and were involved. Sometimes that's football, I understand that the EFL have a fixture list that they desperately need to stick to wherever possible, but it would have been easier to play the game a later date. That was the situation we got to ultimately. Given an absolute choice we would have delayed it and played at a later date, we had to make a call ultimately, so myself, the Sporting Director and the manager were deep in conversation and determined that we're a football club, we get on with it. Lee Johnson was incredibly pragmatic about it, he picked three or four teams through the day with all the different permutations, but we got on with it. We've now got players out who are testing, and we are waiting for those results today. Our first concern is that all our players are OK and that they're healthy, but if those tests come back positive then clearly we're going to have to look a bit further afield to Saturday's game and next Tuesday's. We're just taking it hour by hour by hour to be perfectly honest. We'll wait and see what today's results tell us and then we'll act accordingly."