Things certainly have spiralled since last week’s first positive Covid-19 test at Orlando Pride – as it later broke 13 players and staff at the club had contracted the virus.
The initial positive test was the first among all NWSL clubs, after testing protocols had been implemented four weeks ago by the league.
It came just eight days before the start of the NWSL Utah 2020 Challenge Cup, with the tournament due to kick off today.
The revelations now sadly mean Orlando Pride can play no part in the competition, and on Monday they released a statement confirming their withdrawal.
Orlando Pride Statement Regarding 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup Participation.
— Challenge Cup Stan Account (@ORLPride) June 22, 2020
The specific details of how the outbreak at the club developed remain ambiguous, however, through government-prescribed contact tracing, the initial infection has been tracked to a confined public space where a high number of cases have since been traced back to.
While Florida’s state rules were not breached, and the individual players involved conducted themselves within those regulations, it appears the protocols provided by the league for all clubs to adhere to were not taken seriously enough.
Diverse measures in each state have perhaps led to some letting their guard down, as areas start to open up and day-to-day routines start to resemble normality.
It does, however, seem naive for some to be so loose with their own precautions.
Over the past two weeks, Florida has seen more than 4,500 new cases some days in what is a staggering spike in the spread of the virus.
The additional controls were asked of clubs because of the varying infection rates and restrictions state-to-state to make sure the Challenge Cup tournament could be successful.
The risk of contracting the virus and the ease at which it spreads has now been very clearly demonstrated close to home.
For the rest of the players at Orlando, the news has been devastating and, while some have displayed that publicly over social media, others have kept their feelings more private. The overall consensus is many feel let down and frustrated their opportunity to get back to action in the near future has now gone.
Scotland’s Claire Emslie will be one of those players who sadly will miss out. Having checked in earlier this week, I was at least grateful to learn she was healthy and safely in isolation. The other consolation for now is all players and staff who did test positive remain asymptomatic and hopefully everyone recovers fully, without complications or further repercussions.
The implications on the tournament structure now mean nine teams become eight. With TV rights and sponsors all lined up for a certain number of games, each team will still play four group-play matches, and instead of one team being eliminated at this stage, this will alternatively provide the seedings for each team to enter into the quarter-finals and further knock-out rounds.
The tournament is set to start today, with North Carolina facing Portland Thorns at 5.30pm GMT.
Scottish domestic game should return to winter season permanently
I hope the women’s game in Scotland moves back to a winter season and can operate on a “normal” schedule.
At the moment, the campaign runs from February-November, however, like the rest of the Scottish game, the leagues have been shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The benefits of the summer season have been minimal in my opinion, and if reverting to a winter schedule is necessary to get games played this year, then it’s worth sticking with.
Excited by potential World Cup trip to Australia and New Zealand
The host nations for the Women’s World Cup for 2023 were confirmed on Thursday night and, as expected, Australia and New Zealand will be the destination for the spectacle.
After the record interest, attendances and other successes of the last tournament in France, this will be the first time a Women’s World Cup will play host to 32 teams.
The bid from the two nations will mean eight stadiums are utilised in Australia and five in New Zealand and, with their experience of hosting some of the world’s greatest sporting events over the last decade, as a player, the prospect of participating in such a tournament is very exciting.
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) June 26, 2020
For me, Australia has adopted a very aggressive approach to growing the women’s game and their ambitions are based on absolutely reaching the top, rather than as a comparison to others, which seems to be somewhat of a hinderance and restrictive barrier elsewhere in the game.
The inclusion of New Zealand in the bid certainly adds to the interest on a personal level and I really hope Scotland can qualify in two years’ time. Travel and time differences will certainly bring some challenges.
For Colombia, the other bidding nation, they will be disappointed to not have gathered enough votes to welcome the tournament.