Football Return Edges Closer With Testing

Testing for COVID-19 began yesterday with players and management of Dundalk FC, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Derry City as part of the pilot programme and tournament for the four SSE Airtricity League clubs who will compete in Europe this year.

Players and staff from all four clubs were tested as the FAI continues to work on a pathway for a safer return for all Irish football in the coming months.

Dr Alan Byrne is the FAI’s Medical Director and a member of the Government’s Return to Sport expert group and has overseen the pilot programme for the four clubs that will inform all decisions on a pathway for Irish football to return in a safe environment by the end of August.

No date for the tournament planned to be staged at Tallaght Stadium has yet been set but the four teams are working towards a return to training of some description on Monday, June 8th.

UEFA will decide next week on dates and format for next seasons European competitions, prior of course to the conclusion of this years. Other European countries have yet to determine who their representatives will be but with the SSE Airtricity league taking place over the summer months, our teams were determined last autumn.

“We must take slow and deliberate steps in this COVID-19 pandemic and testing of these four squads is crucial as we look to deliver this pathway to a safer return to football for all elements of our game,” said Byrne.

“We have begun the process for players at all levels, not just for those tested today under the pilot programme. Once we start to analyse the results of these tests, we can move forward. We will test the players from these four clubs again before they return to training on June 8th and then again regularly when they are back on the training field.”

“Everything we do now is designed to ensure that football can return for everyone as soon as it is safe and responsible. We owe that to all our players, from the elite players in the League of Ireland to the schoolboys and schoolgirls who want to get back on the pitch with their clubs but their health and safety must come first. This is the first step and a significant step in that process.”

Test results from all players and staff in the pilot programme will be available later this week when they will be assessed by the FAI Medical team who will link in with Government and HSE officials as they work together on a return for sport.

Current testing is producing less than a two per cent level of positives while similar testing programmes in England and Germany have produced less than one per cent among players and officials.


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