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Highlights on Off The Ball


'That's a red herring' | FAI's Gary Owens on plane seating and COVID positive

The FAI's Gary Owens joined Off The Ball to discuss the COVID positive test that has ruled out se...

The FAI's Gary Owens joined Off The Ball to discuss the COVID positive test that has ruled out several players from their match against Wales - saying that discussions on plane seating arrangements were a 'red herring.'

A total of five players - the positive case and four other players deemed close contacts - have been 'stood down' for the game, according to an official FAI statement.

The FAI's Gary Owens believes that where players were sat on the plane is a misnomer and that they did not operate on the presumption of obtaining a positive test, as all staff and players tested negative before boarding.

FAI reaction

Owens believes that where players were sat - i.e. designated seating would have had the players separate to non-playing staff - would not have mitigated the circumstances that the FAI now find themselves.

"[It] is a bit of a red herring in terms of where people were sitting because you basically do the testing before people get on the plane. So, everybody is deemed to be negative in line with the protocols.

"You are not expecting anybody to be positive. It was just luck that two players went to the back of the plane. To be honest, I think that it is a red herring in terms of the overall problem."


Challenged on whether that 'luck' would be mitigated by players adhering to designated seating, Owens responded.

"To be clear, the HSE guidelines do not dictate who sits where on the plane.

"To be fair, anybody could have ended up being positive. That is one of the problems that we have at the moment, that you are deemed to be negative at a point in time.

"With the player that has ended up being positive, they had a negative test on Tuesday - so anybody on that plane could have ended up with a positive test.

"As it turns out, the person who had the positive test in Bratislava had two negative tests here."

Connolly and Idah

Owens responded to the question of why Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah were not asked to go and sit in their designated seats with the playing staff.

"We are going to carry out a review with both UEFA and the HSE in relation to all of the protocols.

"I think the fact that they were sitting on the plane... it could have happened to anybody.

"The reality was that the plane was delayed. We were an hour and a half late getting on the plane, everybody was rushing to try and get off. The two players went down and the two officials just sat in the middle of the plane.

"We didn't think any more about it, it was as simple as that. I think of all the issues that we are going through, where people sat on the plane is one of the least issues, to be honest."

Gary Owens

It was put to Owens that it was their position on the plane directly led to them missing the game in Bratislava on Thursday.

"The reason that they missed the game was because of the person who had a positive test on Wednesday. That person ended up with two negative tests, so that could have happened to anybody.

"It did happen - we have a player now that is positive and there are four people now that cannot play today because they have had close contact."

Owens reacted to reports that players would like to travel on a bigger plane, but said that to adhere to 53 people being at a two-metre distance would require four planes, which is a 'huge financial burden.'

Stephen Kenny has intimated frustration at the situation, reportedly due to a belief that the staff member who tested positive was not deemed essential to operations.

Stephen Kenny

Owens said he disagreed with the assertion attributed to Kenny.

"We will define the roles and responsibilities, Stephen is part of our team. I think he did say yesterday that we will have an internal review.

"From our point of view, the person who travelled is essential to UEFA and he does have a role and responsibility that is required.

"I would disagree with him on that - the reality was that that person was negative and he has had two negative results since.

"That is where the problem occurred, we had 53 people on the plane - each one had roles and responsibilities. What you do is that you bring the right people to support the team, and that is what we did."

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Covid Covid-19 FAI Gary Owens