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Concerns that Mike Ashley cutting virus testing to save money contributed to outbreak – Report

5 months ago
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As we all know, Mike Ashley will do anything to save money at Newcastle United.

However, short-term cash saving measures often costing the club far more, longer-term.

Back in 2013, Mike Ashley announced that a new state of the art training complex would be built as soon as possible, saying that the new complex was ‘essential’ if the club were to be able to compete moving forward.

The training complex back in 2013 deemed completely outdated and not fit for purpose at a Premier League club hoping to progress.

Moving forward over seven years now since that 2013 Mike Ashley commitment and not a single foundation / brick has been laid of that promised ‘essential’ new complex.

Mike Ashley even assured Rafa Benitez back in 2016 when he signed his three year contract that the new state of the art training complex would be completed, arranging for Rafa to talk to the architect to add his ideas. After having been forced out of Newcastle United in 2019, Benitez confirmed that those promises (amongst many others) had been broken with no work done on the promised new facility, instead Mike Ashley having them give a coat of paint to the existing complex, which had been deemed nowhere near good enough in 2013.

As you will be aware, Newcastle United have now become the first Premier League club responsible for a 2020/21 PL match having to be called off.

An escalating virus situation seeing more and more players and staff testing positive for the virus, leading to an NUFC request to the Premier League for the Aston Villa match due to be played tomorrow (Friday) to be called off. An official Newcastle United statement (see below) on Tuesday confirming that this request had been granted.

As they are required to do, Public Health England were alerted early on by the club to the escalating virus situation and they have now insisted that the training complex stays closed for the time being, with the players not allowed back until Friday at the very earliest, even once they are allowed back to train, there is no guarantee the NUFC squad will be allowed to use the buildings. Potentially just turning up ready to train and then heading home immediately afterwards, as was the case after project restart earlier this year.

As the fallout continues from this current virus situation and the club try to get to the bottom of what happened, a new report has given some background as to factors that could have been responsible for turning the virus outbreak into a far worse situation than might have been the case.

The Mail report that sources have told them that the refusal by Mike Ashley to invest in those modern Premier League fit for purpose training facilities may have contributed to the outbreak, due to: ‘the cramped nature of the training ground – which has long been in need of an upgrade.’

However, another cost cutting measure is even more alarming as having been a potential major contributing factor in not controlling the outbreak better.

During Project Restart to get the 2019/20 season completed, the Premier League made it a mandatory requirement for players and staff to be tested at least twice a week for the virus, to try and help nip things in the bud if any positive case(s) were found.

For the 2020/21 season the Premier League reduced that very minimum requirement to only once a week, however, at their own expense many Premier League clubs have continued to test twice a week to help try and ensure they were negatively affected by the virus as little as possible.

As for Mike Ashley and Newcastle United, he has ensured they kept costs to an absolute minimum by only doing the mandatory once a week testing, rather than the club paying for the extra testing to help insure as much as possible against any positive virus cases spreading.

The Mail say that: ‘senior Newcastle staff have voiced concerns that they are not doing so [testing players and staff at least twice a week]…and senior staff believe they should have been tested more frequently this season.’

Doing the bare minimum might keep you within the law / rules but it is rarely, if ever, the same as doing your very best.

‘Newcastle United Official Statement – 1 December 2020:’

‘Newcastle United’s Premier League fixture at Aston Villa on Friday, 4th December has been postponed following a significant increase in Covid-19 cases at the Magpies’ Training Centre.

Several Newcastle United players and staff members are now self-isolating at home after returning positive test results in recent days and the club’s Training Centre site has been temporarily closed in order to contain the spread of the virus.

With the Magpies’ first team currently unable to prepare for the match as a group, Newcastle United lodged a request with the Premier League to postpone the fixture at Villa Park, which has been approved by the Premier League Board.

The match, which was set to kick off at 8pm (GMT) on Friday evening, will now be rescheduled and a new date and time will be confirmed in due course. Newcastle United would like to thank Aston Villa Football Club for its understanding.

Newcastle United was one of the first clubs in the country to close its training ground prior to the first national lockdown in March and the club introduced comprehensive Covid-19 protocols in line with Premier League and government guidance to protect its players and staff ahead of Project Restart.

While the club has continued to ensure strict adherence to these protocols, and despite previously experiencing only a very small number of isolated Covid-19 cases, positive test results have risen sharply in recent days.

Accordingly, the club is now is working with Public Health England North East (PHE), local health authorities and the Premier League in line with Covid-19 protocols to identify the source of the outbreak and to ensure the risk of further transmission continues to be minimised.

All players and training ground staff will be re-tested this week and a meeting between the club, Premier League and PHE will take place to assess the test results.

The club will not be naming individuals who have contracted Covid-19 and asks that their privacy is respected.

For the latest coronavirus guidance, please visit gov.uk/coronavirus.’

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