Casey Stoney apologies for Manchester United women players’ Dubai trip | Football

Casey Stoney has apologised for a “poor error of judgment” in permitting some of her Manchester United players to join counterparts from Arsenal and Manchester City in flying to Dubai during the Christmas break.

Although none of Stoney’s squad have since tested positive for Covid-19, United’s game at Everton on Sunday was postponed on Friday night due to an outbreak of the virus among Willie Kirk’s squad.

Only eight hours earlier, Everton’s manager had reported “zero” positive tests, a situation Stoney described as “confusing”. With Arsenal’s game at Aston Villa and Manchester City’s home match with West Ham on Saturday also having fallen victim to Covid outbreaks, the WSL is facing a looming fixture backlog at a time when Arsenal and City are under scrutiny for failing to publicly address their players’ contentious trips to the United Arab Emirates. “It’s not great for the women’s game; there does obviously need to be a lot more transparency,” said Stoney, who has become the first WSL manager to speak openly about the issue.

“I granted permission for my players to go away and see family at Christmas, or to go away on a break,” she said. “Everything we allowed them to do was within government guidelines, but it was a poor error from me. I am deeply, deeply sorry for that.

“The buck stops with me and I am responsible. It was approved because of the need for player wellbeing. But it was a mistake and I take responsibility for it.” Stoney would not reveal how many of her squad had gone on the trip, but three Arsenal players and four from City made the journey for a break that combined commercial interests with leisure, and could be classified as being for business. While City’s quartet are understood to have subsequently tested positive, at least one of the Arsenal trio introduced the virus to Joe Montemurro’s squad, provoking considerable anger among teammates subsequently infected or forced to self-isolate.

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“I can understand the frustration in women’s football when we’re getting games called off,” said Stoney. “I can completely understand why people stuck at home who can’t see family are frustrated to see players going abroad on holiday.” She added that she was baffled at Kirk having said he had “zero positives” hours before the Everton v United game was postponed due to Everton not having 14 players available. “The FA have a difficult job,” Stoney said. “But I’m genuinely confused. I don’t see how that could happen. There has to be consistency. When we’re going to fit in all the postponed games I don’t know.”

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