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Roker Roundtable: Were Sunderland right to go ahead with Tuesday’s game?

Should Sunderland have postponed the game and accepted the the resulting investigation and possible sanctions - or were they right to go ahead with the game?

Sunderland v AFC Wimbledon - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Gav says...

This shouldn’t have got to the stage where we had a choice to make. End of.

I saw someone on Twitter remark that this is potentially an issue for Public Health... what we can say with certainty is that it’s just a massive mess.

Personally I don’t think that it should be down to the clubs to make the decision on whether to play. The rules should be clear, and clubs shouldn’t feel afraid to comply or feel like by agreeing to postpone games that they could end up going through an investigation that sees them sanctioned. We’re living through a global pandemic, and it’s inevitable that the virus will spread into football clubs, just as it is into every other area of society.

Ultimately, the EFL need to be clearer.

As soon as there is one positive COVID-19 case we should be closing clubs down until enough time has elapsed, and we can carry on. It shouldn’t be up to Sunderland to make that decision - someone should be making that decision for them.

Martin Wanless says...

There are so many aspects to this, and we don’t have full visibility on any of them - however on face value, the game should absolutely have been called off.

From a health perspective and from a footballing perspective, the game shouldn’t have been played. I don’t think anyone can disagree with that.

From an EFL perspective, we know they’re about as useful as a Carsten Fredgaard. They continually prove to be hopeless and unfit for purpose, and the lack of leadership they’ve shown over the past year has been utterly pathetic.

Nothing typifies this more than the fact that, 10 months on, they don’t have definitive guidelines as to when a game can be postponed.

They’re totally and utterly useless.

Jim Rodwell has been linked with a role at the EFL in recent weeks
David Haber/scunthorpelive

However that’s the same for every EFL club. The ruling loosely seems to be it is the club’s decision if they call a game off, and the circumstances around it will be investigated. So, every club is investigated should they call a game off.

But, is it a case of being allowed to postpone because of COVID, or being allowed to postpone because you can’t field a team? I’d have thought the former.

And if that’s the case, it seems evident we should have postponed.

Now comes the thing that had Sunderland worried - possible sanctions.

In what circumstances would sanctions be enforced? No proven positive tests? Fair enough. Not following protocols? Again, fair enough.

The EFL simply couldn’t sanction a club if they’d followed the rules and genuinely had cases.

New Sunderland Manager Press Conference
Kristjaan Speakman and Lee Johnson
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

So, what was going on? The truth may come out in the wash - I’m sure the EFL will release a statement on it over the next few days - however I wouldn’t rule out some type of issue in our footballing administration.

We saw last week an ineligible player being selected for a game, and now we have this situation.

This is no criticism of Speakman - it merely illustrates the enormity of the task at hand - but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that there’s some shared blame here.

However, that doesn’t take anything away from the pathetically ambiguous EFL.

Given COVID doesn’t seem to be going anywhere quickly, however, they needs to get their house in order - and sharpish.

Sport Coronavirus - Wednesday 18th March Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images

Kelvin Beattie says...

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, it gives you 20/20 vision. I will be interested to see what Johnson’s “post mortem” turns up. Many of us on RR were initially alarmed that the game had not been cancelled, but were then encouraged when we saw the team we were putting out.

Did we gain a point or lose two? Only the end of the season will show this. I do think Johnson will have learnt something about his squad and tactics required when teams park the bus.

Sunderland v AFC Wimbledon - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

In hindsight I would have cancelled, especially as it now makes me wonder how the EFL thought it was ok to allow that game to go ahead, if they then gave us the green light to cancel the next three games less than 24 hours later!

Clearly Gooch was not fit and Willis seemed to be on the way back. Also, the Under 23’s played on Monday which meant players fitness needed to be assessed after that if they were to be involved against Wimbledon. This is where the player welfare aspect seemed to have gone out of the window.

It would not be Sunderland without some sort of controversy.

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