Casey Stoney has admitted she made an ‘error in judgement’ by allowing her Manchester United players to travel abroad during Christmas, insisting she was ‘deeply sorry’ for the backlash it has caused.
While some of Stoney’s players made international journeys to see their families, others went on holiday to Dubai – a destination that was visited by several Women’s Super League players during the break.
Casey Stoney has admitted she made an ‘error in judgement’ by allowing her Manchester United players to travel abroad during Christmas
Both clubs successfully applied for their WSL matches to be postponed this weekend while City’s Continental Cup clash with Chelsea has also been called off. United, however, did not suffer any positive cases as a result of their players’ journeys.
Katie McCabe is one of the Arsenal players known to have travelled to Dubai after the Republic of Ireland posted a photo on Instagram. After an investigation, the Gunners deemed the trips to be for ‘business reasons’. City also gave their players approval to travel.
Stoney is the first person to speak out and offer an apology after fans from all clubs joined together to condemn the actions of the players.
Several unidentified Man United players left UK to visit family but some also went on holiday
‘I said before Christmas that I will always take my players well being into consideration and I granted my players permission to go home and see family and to go away and have a break,’ said Stoney.
‘Everything we allowed them to do was within Government guidelines but I have to be honest and on reflection it was probably a poor error in judgement from me.
‘I’m sincerely sorry for that because the buck stops with me and it starts with me and I’m responsible for that. Everything was considered by the club in terms of the player needs and that’s why it was approved. I’m human and I made a mistake and I’m taking responsibility for it.
‘They went away for a break within Government guidelines. We were in Tier 3 at the time, we felt we were making an important decision, on reflection it wasn’t a good decision. I’ll admit that.
‘I’m not going to single out players and crucify them. It was a club decision, unfortunately it wasn’t the right one.
‘I’ve made an error and I’ll look into it deeply and the impact it’s had on people and the reaction it’s caused and I’m deeply, deeply sorry for that.
‘Our club protocols have been more stringent than Government guidelines for a long time which took a huge toll on our players.’
United’s match with Everton on Sunday has been postponed. The news came hours after Toffees boss Willie Kirk confirmed the club’s last round of testing was ‘all negative’.
In a statement, Everton said five players tested positive between Christmas and New Year. The players returned to training this week but were not passed fit by medical staff. In addition to five injuries, the club said they only had 13 players available, one less than the required 14.
Stoney took aim at Everton and Willie Kirk for postponing their game due to Covid, despite reporting no positive tests on Friday morning
‘I find it fascinating,’ said a frustrated Stoney.
‘I’ve read an interview from Willie Kirk saying they didn’t have any positive tests. But yet our game has been called off? I’m confused, I’m genuinely confused.
‘Maybe I don’t know the rules properly because I don’t know how you can do an interview saying you’ve got no positive tests and everybody has done everything right over Christmas and then you call a game off because of Covid. I’m genuinely confused. There has to be a level of consistency and there has to be consequence.’
WSL rules state that clubs can postpone fixtures if they do not have a squad of 14 players as a result of Covid. Stoney insisted she would not have requested a postponement of United’s game, had they been impacted by positive tests following players’ trips abroad.
‘I wouldn’t want to call a game off. I acknowledge that we might have made poor decisions over Christmas but had that come back to us I still wouldn’t have wanted to call the game off.
‘I want my players to play, if I’m the one that’s saying we’re prepared to let our players go and I’m saying it’s a risk that’s OK to take for their emotional needs, I’m not going to call a game off. Why should the rest of my players suffer?
‘For the integrity of the competition I would never ask for a postponement, it’s never something I would do. We played Chelsea with a bare thin squad at the start of the season, I wasn’t going to try and call a game off. You’ve got a squad, you have to manage it, especially in these times.
Four Manchester City players and three Arsenal players including Katie McCabe (right) travelled to Dubai over Christmas
‘I’ve seen Birmingham go to games with two subs and they have to be prepared to compete and that would be the same for us. We’ve had real big injuries, positive tests, I see it all as an opportunity for somebody else to play and put themselves in the shop window for me to pick them again.
‘I was a player, we trained to play, so why would I want to postpone games? We’re so privileged, I know that more than anybody. I walk out my door, leave my partner with three kids home schooling. Trust me, I know I’m so privileged to walk out the door and come to work and do what I love for a living around incredible people. I want this game to continue.
‘The game is keeping us sane, it’s the one thing that keeps the fans happy and engaged and we’re denying them that.’