On Saturday 3rd October 2020, Crewe Alex travelled from their hotel to the Kassam Stadium, to play their hosts Oxford United in the fourth League One match-day of the season. The game never saw the first whistle. The game never even saw player’s warming up.
After discussions between Crewe Alex manager, Dave Artell, Oxford United manager, Karl Robinson, and a whole host of other men affiliated with either the clubs or/and the EFL, the game was postponed. Well, technically, Robinson declared that The U’s would not play the Alex that afternoon due to Crewe’s positive COVID-19 tests.
This is where it all gets very confusing. Oxford United fans will, of course, believe Robinson statements like its gospel; however, there are also different accounts of happened that have been reported.
The Apparent ‘Facts’
First of all, everyone here at FanHub wish Ryan Wintle a speedy and healthy recovery from COVID-19. Sadly, yet unsurprisingly, in the web of voices that spout their opinions on Twitter, very few have actually mentioned the man at all.
What is widely understood, is that Wintle felt ill during the Newcastle United U23’s, EFL Trophy clash on the prior Tuesday, then got tested, which came back positive. It’s also understood, that he hadn’t trained or travelled with the players since that day. Reports also suggest that Omar Beckles (Crewe Alex defender) had got a private test done as he was worried about his young child. This also apparently came back positive on Saturday morning. The club then told Oxford United, and after the discussion between the managers, the idea of postponement was settled upon.
Thoroughly the right decision. As Robinson says, many of The U’s players have children on the way and putting them at risk is not worth it, just to play a game of football.
The Speculation and Question Marks
Does anyone know the actual truth? Well, yeah, Crewe Alexandra do. They are yet to announce their side of events.
There are so many questions being pointed around about this situation. Was Beckles positive? Did Beckles travel? Had he trained with the club prior? Had Wintle travelled? Why did the away squad actually go to the ground? Did Crewe actually want to play? Do all of the Alex’s players now need to isolate? Is it true Crewe told the EFL and Oxford United on the Wednesday? Is this going to be a regular occurrence?
I, personally, would be very surprised if the Alex had turned up at the Kassam and expected an actual match to happen. Crewe Alex is a realistic and a family-feel club; one that takes health and well-being very important. That being said, it does seem as if some protocols may have been… confused. With the player’s apparent ‘private test’ throwing all this into confusion. From Karl Robinson’s accusatory interview, to Artell’s rather strange press ramblings, there is so much to unravel.
All we can say is that the right outcome came: postponement.
Why Did Crewe Alex Go To The Kassam?
This is speculation, but take the Juventus-Napoli game as an example. On Sunday the 4th , Juventus travelled to their home stadium to face fierce rivals Napoli. However, the away side were in quarantine – as told to by their local health authority. Serie A had refused to cancel the game, so due to their opposition’s failure to turn up, Juventus were given the automatic three points.
The same could’ve easily happened, and you’d hope that if the club had had the right advice, then Crewe wouldn’t have felt like they HAD to turn up to escape punishment. That is one possibility, anyway.
What’s Next Then?
This issue won’t only be at Crewe Alex’s door. Liverpool’s Sadio Mane tested positive and began his 14-day-quarantine whilst the Reds went on to get a battering by Aston Villa. Why can Liverpool play but Crewe can’t? Simple. Money.
Regular and thorough COVID testing is common place in the Premier League. The money and leadership from the EPL is there, and it’s worked well. It’s a complete different story in the EFL. Awful leadership from the EFL has caused havoc, and the significant lack of funds it helps clubs with is becoming a real issue. It is well-reported that the EFL and PFA have a fairly large sum of money lying around. Why isn’t this being put into proper COVID testing?
This week it is Crewe’s problem, next week it could easily be Cardiff City’s, and then Rotherham United’s and then Crawley Town’s.
As fans, staff and players of EFL clubs, we are all in the same boat. Until proper leadership, protocols and funding is provided to our clubs then it’ll never be safe and the postponement of matches is going to be a much more regular occurrence.
The actual story behind the events leading up the Saturday’s postponement is yet to be released (Tuesday 6th October), so until then, most reports are either conflicting or based on unknown truths. Either way, it won’t be the last time we suffer another Saturday without football.