Bristol football club cancels match but denies Covid outbreak

A Bristol football club says it is being dogged by false rumours that it us covering up a Covid outbreak row after an opposing team pulled out minutes before a match was due to be played.

Bosses at Bristol Manor Farm Football Club say directors of the Devon club Bideford AFC called off the match with five minutes to go last Saturday after being told of rumours.

But team manager Lee Lashenko insists rumours that multiple members of the team and staff have tested positive are completely wrong and the club is sticking to the rules to protect people.

He believes the rumours started when a customer at the social club ended up in hospital on a ventilator with coronavirus and were perpetuated through “silly and ill-advised negative comments placed on social media”.

Since then an injured player has had a positive test result and two squad players who were in the car with him are awaiting test results.

Manor Farm manager Lee Lashenko
Manor Farm manager Lee Lashenko
(Image: Jon Kent)

The social club was also closed on Saturday after a member of a dance troupe that hires the function room tested positive.

But Mr Lashenko insists the cases are not connected through Manor Farm and says the social club will open to give free half term meals to children on Friday as planned.

Theoretically both clubs, who play in Division One South as part of the Gloucestershire FA, face fines of up to £2,000 for not fulfilling the fixture last Saturday.

But the Southern League has this afternoon given the Bristol club permission to suspend Saturday’s home game with Sholing FC at the Creek to try and quell the storm locally.

Mr Lashenko said: “This club takes the Covid situation very seriously and we have not covered anything up.

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“This club does a lot for the community and an unfortunate chain of events has led to a lot of untrue and hurtful comments on social media.

“We have done everything right and there was no reason whatsover for Saturday’s game to be cancelled.

“After Saturday we decided to put our tin hats on and close the club for a few days until things died down but we do not operate a blame culture and that needs to be heeded by others.

“This is a pandemic and we are doing our utmost but people don’t turn green or purple when they catch coronavirus so trying to pass the buck or point the finger is unhelpful.”

Manor Farm has a first team and several youth teams and other clubs also use the facilities.

The club released a statement to fans on Saturday saying: “Bristol Manor Farm Football Club takes the health and safety of all all our players staff fans and customers very seriously indeed, particularly during these difficult times under the necessary restrictions imposed on us due to the coronaviris pandemic.

“We are confident that we met all the current Government and NHS guidelines regarding recent positive testing amongst our staff.

“Unfortunately today’s game at home to Bideford FC was postponed when Bideford withdrew their team shortly before the 3pm kick over growing fears expressed on social media.

“However the match and league officials also present were satisfied that as a club we had taken all the necessary precautions for the safe and successful completion of the fixture.

“The decision to close the club for this coming week is one taken by ourselves and not by any health agency or governmental order. We have been in ongoing dialogue with the NHS since the current situation arose and together we continue to monitor it closely.

“In the meantime we express our genuine concern and sympathy for everybody currently affected by the virus.”

Bideford FC issued a statement on the website on Saturday saying: “Due to a covid situation at Bristol Manor Farm the director’s of Bideford AFC have decided that for the health and safety of the club officials, supporters and players not to go ahead with today’s fixture.

“Further comment will be made in due course.”

Bristol Live has contacted both Bideford FC and the Southern League for comment.

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