Rochdale doctor calls for EFL season to be suspended as coronavirus cases rise

Rochdale's club doctor Wes Tensel has called for the EFL to see the "bigger picture" and halt the current campaign due to rising cases of coronavirus.

Dale are the latest club to suffer an outbreak of Covid-19 in their camp over Christmas, with their next two games called off.

Millwall, Rotherham, Ipswich, Sunderland, Hull, Doncaster, Peterborough, Portsmouth and Morecambe have also been hit over the last week while the Premier League has not escaped, with 18 cases reported in its last round of testing as the festive calendar has been heavily disrupted.

Tensel, who is also a practising GP, says there are consequences for football clubs beyond the pitch and thinks a postponement of the season would be a sensible move.

"This is my opinion as a doctor. Some people will disagree, some won't, this is just my opinion based on what I have seen working in the NHS and at a football club," he told the PA news agency.

"As a club we try to minimise the spread of Covid as much as possible, but we have heard about this new strain which is more transmissible, does it make sense for clubs to be travelling across tiers when other people are unable to see their relatives in another tier over Christmas?

"People could only see their loved ones outside in a park, but a whole coach-load of footballers can go up and down the country as they wish.

"That is my feeling as a doctor, as a football fan I don't want it to stop. But I am trying to see the bigger picture. A lot of people have been affected this year, they have not been able to go on holiday and things, it must be a bit frustrating for them and they must ask, 'Why are footballers allowed to go all over the place?'

"If the government were to put us in another lockdown like we had with the very first one where it was just essential travel, then football should also stop as well.

"If they carry on with tiers, the fact that everything the government have done so far the cases are still increasing, I would have thought football probably should be postponed.

"Footballers travelling around the country are not causing spikes in different tiers but they can still pass it on to their loved ones because the football bubble they are in bursts every time they go home. There are consequences outside of the football pitch."

The EFL is investigating the circumstances of each club's outbreak and could issue fines or points deductions if it finds its Covid-19 guidelines were broken.

Points could also be deducted if clubs refuse to play when the EFL say it is safe to do so, with Rotherham boss Paul Warne admitting that is the only reason their game with Barnsley is going ahead.

Tensel believes it is a possibility that some clubs are hiding the full nature of outbreaks from the governing body.

He said: "This is where Rochdale have been very transparent with the EFL and could have shot ourselves in the foot, but we felt it was important to be totally transparent.

"I am surprised that other clubs who have had positive cases, there have been no spread. That could be because they have followed the guidance to the letter and it has worked – fair play, that is great – but it could also be some of these clubs felt, 'Actually, if we start to tell the EFL it has spread then we are going to lose points'.

"If they start to fine people or dock points some clubs at the bottom may think we are not going to say anything and then just carry on."