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Football cannot start without COVID-19 testing protocol, says Maltese players’ union

The Malta Football Players Football Association have called on the Malta Football Association should establish a comprehensive and sustainable medical protocol before the 2020-21 season can get underway.

On Tuesday, Birkirkara FC vice-president Michael Valenzia said that the Stripes players, who are currently on quarantine after a first-team player tested positive for COVID-19, need to return to training by Wednesday or else they would not be able to play their league opener against Valletta next month.  

In a statement, the Malta Football Players Association said in a statement that without a COVID-19 testing protocol the new season cannot start.

“Without a comprehensive COVID-19 testing protocol, the start of football competitions in Malta is at risk,” the MFPA said in a statement.

“Currently, if a football player tests positive for COVID-19 the whole squad is being quarantined for 14 days. This means that players who had a three-week pre-season training, now have to pause for two weeks, and have only two weeks until their first league game.

“Long interruptions of pre-season training will not only adversely affect players’ physical capacity but also puts the integrity of the whole competition into question since not all teams would have the opportunity to train on an equal playing field.”

The MFPA also said that the football authorities must also think about the financial well-being of those players who do not make a liveable wage from football.

“It’s important to think about those players who do not make a liveable wage from football, but must supplement their income with separate employment,” the MFPA said.

“How can they be absent from their employment for two consecutive weeks, only to return for training after two weeks with the risk of another player testing positive for COVID-19? This is not a sustainable system.

“Comprehensive and sustainable medical protocols, addressing various possible scenarios should have been established by MFA in line with health authorities, before training resumed. Unfortunately, this did not happen and we are now forced into a reactive rather than proactive situation.

“Players need to be monitored daily for clinical signs and symptoms by the club’s medical staff. Players must also be tested regularly, with those who test positive put in quarantine, and others allowed to resume training, but followed up with further tests.

“Whilst we understand that this requires considerable resources and testing capacities, we do not see any other way if we want the league to start.”

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