LYMINGTON Town’s top-of-the-table clash with Fareham Town was called off at the last minute after the club refused to play, going against league advice.
Lymington manager Dave Lewis received a positive test result on Thursday before two first-team players, Sam House and Owen Fee, were told on Saturday morning they must also self-isolate.
The club contacted the Sydenhams Wessex League and were told the match must go-ahead. However, despite this the club and the matchday referee felt it was best to postpone the game.
Lymington manager Dave Lewis told the A&T: “I woke up on Monday with a mild cough and didn’t think much of it. By Tuesday, my temperature had skyrocketed and I was told to go for a test at a Covid-19 drive-through site.
“The positive test result came back on Thursday evening around 6pm, and we phoned the league straight away the next day, but were told to go ahead with Saturday’s match against Fareham.
“I was self-isolating at this point, but first-teamers Sam House and Owen Fee, who work together, received a message at 11am informing them that someone at their workplace has also tested positive and they needed to self-isolate.
Later in the week both players’ test results came back negative, but they are still required to self-isolate for 14 days.
Lewis continued: “We contacted the league again and told them that we don’t think it’s safe to play. In response, the chairman Nick Spencer and Bob Purkiss, the league’s Covid-19 liaison support officer, instructed us to call up reserve team players and honour the fixture.
“We had rested five players in our previous fixture in preparation for our match against Fareham. We told them we weren’t concerned with filling the team and that some things are bigger than football, but they insisted we provide evidence before kick-off or the match would have to be played.
“There was no time to provide the evidence, and we feel like the league was putting football before lives. We felt we had a duty of care towards our players, the committee, supporters and Fareham Football Club. Our consciences wouldn’t allow us to play the match.
“As a club, we decided to call off the fixture. I’m incredibly proud of the courage the chairman and committee displayed.
“Since then, the league has charged us for not playing because they have a flow chart of steps clubs need to take. One of those steps is to provide evidence, but the virus doesn’t follow flow charts and we didn’t have time. This isn’t a football issue, it’s a human one.”
Sydenhams Wessex League’s Covid liaison officer, Bob Purkiss MBE, told the A&T: “We followed the Football Association’s and Department for Media Culture and Sport’s guidelines to the letter. There are strict protocols for steps six and up, and with the Wessex League Premier League and Division One, we’re step five and six.
“Under the rules, a match will only be called off if clubs have provided medical certificates and they cannot field a full side. We asked them to forward the information they had received from Test and Trace.
“FA guidelines state football is not a close-contact sport so only the player who tested positive, or has been instructed to self-isolate, must do so.
“Each club is required to have 16 players registered with the league. We were told about a manager and two players, which is no grounds to cancel the match. To qualify there would have to be at least three or four first-team players unavailable, but we take it case by case, so that is not a set number.
“An unfulfilled fixture penalty is a minimum amount of £250 and a maximum of £1,000. Regulations state when a match is unjustly postponed the league can either deduct three points from the offending team, award three points to the affected team or apply a fine.”
Lymington Town have yet to be told their punishment.