Should Bohemians Have Been Punished?

Recently videos and photographs have being doing the rounds on social media of Bohemians taken part in a training session in Fr. Collins Park in Donaghmede. The videos on social media were unclear and filmed at a distance. So, at first it was hard to make out how many players were involved. The club quickly released a statement to clear up the whole situation. The full statement is on the Bohemians website.

The club confirmed that two groups of three were taken part in the training session. The club also confirmed both groups social distancing from each other. However, the club did admit this was an error on their part and it went against the advice of the FAI medical advisor Dr Alan Byrne.

In a statement released back on the 15th of May Dr Byrne said “My advice to clubs is not to return to training when we enter Phase One of the Government Roadmap on Monday, May 18th, not to open their grounds and pitches, even to groups of four, and not to consider collective training or playing football until the medical evidence suggests otherwise.”

Luckily for Bohemians the FAI have very recently accepted an apology from Bohemians on the issue. So recently in fact your humble writer had to come back for a quick edit. However, this still hasn’t completely put the argument to bed on groups and forums. So we taught we would continue the discussion too as we would like the view of the reader.

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So, you have one side of the League of Ireland community on board with all this. They know the club have broken the advice of the FAI. However, they feel it’s more important that the club keep within the guidelines of the government. Which by all accounts they have. The club have said that players have been meeting up in groups of three around parks in Dublin since May.

According to the club all players were put together in these groups in a way that respects the current 5km travel rule in place. They also made these players travel to their designated park alone. Plus, they would practice social distance throughout the duration of their stay.

Going forward the club has assured this won’t happen again. They said in their statement “All club stakeholders involved have agreed that there will only be one group of three plus one coach per park/location until the FAI’s agreed date for the club to return to collective training on Monday June 8.”

People defending the club are saying that they went against the advice of the FAI not any rules. They haven’t broken any of the governments Covid-19 restrictions put in place. Many League of Ireland players are keeping fit and training while in lockdown while keeping within government guidelines.  

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The FAI advised against organised training in their own pathway they released for the return to football. People defending Bohs have made the point that you could simply chalk this up to four people meeting up within their 5km radius for a kick about in a public park. The issue would be much more straight forward if they were meeting up in an enclosed area like a training facility or even Dalymount Park.

It would also be straight forward if the government roadmap and FAI pathway didn’t contradict each other. On one side you have the government saying its fine to meet up in groups of four in your radius. Now the FAI are asking players not to meet up in any groups. Leaving a lot of people stuck between a rock and a hard place.

This seems to be the point that is dividing the League of Ireland community on this issue. Bohs did go against the advice of the FAI but they did follow the guidelines put into place by the government. The club announced their intentions to follow government guidelines rather than the guidelines of the FAI saying in their statement “While we respect Dr Byrne’s advice, expertise and professionalism absolutely, the club made the collective decision to operate under the guidance of the government Roadmap and Department of Health guidelines.”

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The fact that they went against the advice of Dr Alan Byrne and the FAI is something that is frustrating fans on the other side of this argument. They think the pathway put in place by the FAI should be what is followed by all clubs. You could say that these guidelines are in place to stop any one team from getting a further competitive advantage.

You could argue that Bohemians, Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers and Derry are getting an advantage already. These teams will return to training on Monday the 8th of June to prepare for the four-team pilot tournament due to take place this summer. Now with Bohemians being the only team caught training together in small groups it even furthers their competitive advantage.

This side of the argument simply falls to the question. If these guidelines don’t matter and don’t have to be followed then why can’t everyone return to training when they want?

You could argue that Bohemians, Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers and Derry are getting an advantage already. These teams will return to training on Monday the 8th of June to prepare for the four-team pilot tournament due to take place this summer. Now with Bohemians being the only team caught training together in small groups it even furthers their competitive advantage.

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I must admit for this argument I agree in the first category. From the evidence available to us they were in small groups of three and distanced correctly. You shouldn’t have to pick sides with authority but in this case surly the rules of the government must be implemented ahead of guidelines set out by the FAI.

They weren’t hiding anything or trying to be sly about it because if they were, they wouldn’t be training in a public park. The statement released by the club can’t be an admission of guilt either. It was a reply to online accusations made over social media. It wasn’t even a full training session at the end of the day. No difference between what they done and a coach sending a player a training plan.

The Bohemians players are also currently undergoing Covid-19 testing. They are safe together with regular testing being done on all players and staff. Especially now that the latest test has all come back negative.  

So, to finish up should Bohemians have been punished?

No but I taught they would face some sort of punishment. The FAI will have felt annoyed about a club going against their pathway. The worry would that the flood gates will open now. If the FAI didn’t act the fear would be other clubs would see that and go against the guidelines too. Before you know it all League of Ireland clubs would be doing the same.

Really the FAI might not even have a case here. They aren’t rules the FAI put out there guidelines. So they can’t really punish them if they didn’t break any.

Surprisingly, an apology from Bohemians to the FAI is all it took to patch things up. The FAI have said that they are positive Bohemians are now committed to their pathway. Part of their statement says  “We are happy that Bohemians have reaffirmed their commitment to the pathway we are on to ensure a safer return to football.”

With Bohemians sharing the good will on their end. They have now realised their mistake and accepted the merit of the FAI guidelines. They apologised to both the FAI and Dr Alan Byrne in the official statement.

A full statement on the matter can be seen on the FAI website. Thankfully for everyone involved at Bohs it has ended on somewhat good terms.

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