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Matches Against Off-Island Visitors 'Not Appropriate'

The Assistant Minister with responsibility for sport says given the rising levels of Covid-19 in many areas of the UK, relaxing rules to a level where football and rugby games can be played against off-island opponents 'isn't appropriate at the moment'.

Jersey Bulls game against Risborough Rangers, which was scheduled for 29 August, has been cancelled following government advice.

The Bulls director argued that Risborough had robust safety procedures in place, which local authorities should have embraced.

Senator Steve Pallett says while he understands the frustration, the government is erring on the side of caution.

"It sort of looks like we've moved the goalposts and we have, but I think the goalposts will carry on being moved when we have to consider changes in Covid and levels of Covid around the country."

The former Constable of St Brelade also fears that Jersey Bulls and Jersey Reds may have to decide down the line whether its financially viable to play.

It's because home fixtures against off-island opposition isn't due to be allowed until the autumn, which led to the decision to cancel the planned pre-season game.

Risborough boss Mark Eaton felt the match should have gone ahead given the steps both they and the Bulls took to mitigate any risks.

However the government said it strongly advised against the fixture taking place.

"The Government is working with the island’s key sports venues and teams on tailored safe opening plans, with the aim of supporting them to resume activity in a staged way into the Autumn, if conditions are safe to do so.

The proposed friendly was strongly advised against because it represented an immediate move to approving all sporting fixtures with off-island sports people and teams, without taking a staged approach.

The Jersey Bulls event involved international visitors (including a full visiting football squad), and was therefore at odds with the Level 1 guidance which states: Owing to the changing situation concerning visitors arriving from outside of the Island, it is strongly recommended that event organisers do not organise an event that is reliant on external visitors or guests."

Senator Steve Pallett also fears that the increase in infection in parts of the UK could lead to even more problems for the island's biggest clubs.

"We've got to accept that the Medical Officer of Health (Dr. Susan Turnbull) is doing the best for the island and islanders.

"That's going to mean that the Bulls and the Reds are going to struggle I think at the current time to play any of their fixtures locally and they may struggle with changes in the UK with even playing their games away from home. 

"But we're going to have to wait and see. I hope they can start the season because I know they've already started training and we all want to see them back playing normally as soon as we can."

The Bulls season is due to start on 5 September, but the Combined Counties League says fixtures won't be played if fans are not allowed into the stadiums.

Senator Pallett says it's particularly frustrating given the club's superb 2019/2020 season, in which they won every single match.

"Unfortunately Covid has destroyed, at least for the time being, some of those hopes and aspirations - but we'll support them as best as we can.

"We don't do anything on purpose, government doesn't make decisions and the Medical Officer of Health doesn't make decisions deliberately to spoil people's fun. It's really around trying to keep islanders safe."

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