Bohemians say government advice was followed, after training video emerges
Bohemians have issued a statement clarifying their training practices, after a video circulated on social media that appeared to show a training session taking place in a Dublin public park.
The FAI announced on 12 March that all football activities in the state were to stop, in accordance with Covid-19 measures introduced by the government.
Bohemians are one of four League of Ireland clubs who are part of a pilot programme to bring about a return for the league, with other Europe-qualified clubs Derry City, Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers also taking part. Under this pilot programme, all players and staff were tested on Monday 25 May, with no positive tests returned. Full training is due to resume on 8 June.
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In a statement issued to SportsJOE this evening, Bohemians said that the small-group training has operated within the guidelines issued by the government, on six separate occasions since Phase One began on Monday 18 May;
"On Friday May 1, the government issued its five-phase Ireland’s Roadmap for the reopening of the economy and society in accordance with guidelines from the Department of Health and Chief Medical Officer.
"Included in the Monday May 18 Phase One was “up to four people who don't live together can meet outdoors while keeping at least two metres apart” and “it is now possible to participate in a range of sporting activities in groups of no more than four people within five kilometres of the households of those involved.
"With that firm Department of Health guidance in mind, the Bohemians first-team management team, in liaison with the first-team squad, board of directors and club Covid-19 health and safety officer established guidelines for our players to exercise in pods of three under the supervision of one coach per group."
— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) May 18, 2020
In a policy document issued by the FAI on 15 May, FAI Medical Director Dr Alan Byrne advised that clubs would not return to training when Phase One began on Monday 18 May. He also advised clubs not to open grounds, even if limited to groups of four, and "not to consider collective training or playing football until the medical evidence suggests otherwise."
Bohemians say that "While we respect Dr Byrne’s advice, expertise and professionalism absolutely, the club made the collective decision to operate under the guidance of the government Roadmap and Department of Health guidelines."
Groups of players were also assembled, according to the club, in accordance with the 5km travel rule that is due to stay in place until at least Monday 8 June.
The video does, however, show more than a "pod" of four players. Bohemians say that there were two separate groups training in the Dublin park, and admit that was a mistake, but appropriate measures were taken. They also say that changes will be made in the future;
"While it was an error to have two groups at the same venue at the same time, a distance of 20 metres was maintained between the two groups at all times. All club stakeholders involved have agreed that there will only be one group of three plus one coach per park/location until the FAI’s agreed date for the club to return to collective training on Monday June 8.
"It was and remains the view of the board, the first-team management and players that exercising in a safe and socially-distant way in accordance with the Phase One guidelines was the best possible way of engaging our players, keeping their fitness levels up and enhancing their well-being in what has been a trying time for all", continued the statement.
In a statement issued to SportsJOE, a spokesman for the FAI said that “The cessation order on all football activities under the jurisdiction of the FAI remains in place until July 20th – with the exception of the four SSE Airtricity League clubs qualified for European competition – Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Derry City and Bohemians - and Women’s Champions League representatives Peamount United.
“Players from Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers, Derry City and Bohemians are currently engaged in a pilot testing programme for COVID-19 as we work towards a safer return to football for all players, match officials, staff and volunteers. It is expected that those four SSE Airtricity League clubs will be permitted to return to organised training next Monday, June 8th, as part of Phase Two of the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business.
“The FAI remains committed to complying with all Governmental guidelines regarding return to work and return to sport protocols.”