Chief Minister defends visit by British and Irish Lions head coach

CHIEF Minister Deputy Peter Ferbrache and the CCA have defended the decision to allow British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland a free pass without having to undergo quarantine on a weekend visit to the island.

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland had a free pass to the island at the weekend and did not have to undergo quarantine as he visited Footes Lane on a fact-finding mission. (29402232)
British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland had a free pass to the island at the weekend and did not have to undergo quarantine as he visited Footes Lane on a fact-finding mission. (29402232)

Mr Gatland arrived on the island late on Friday and left by ferry yesterday afternoon, but his trip has stirred a wealth of criticism on social media as islanders, some high-profile, highlighted their concerns about double standards in terms of border restrictions.

Former Chief Minister Deputy Gavin St Pier said it lacked ‘empathy and emotional intelligence in the #GuernseyTogether spirit’.

In an exclusive interview with the Guernsey Press, the New Zealander said he had been Covid tested multiple times during his stay and wore a mask throughout.

‘I haven’t been able to go anywhere without a mask. I was tested before I arrived, I was tested Friday, again yesterday morning and tested this morning. They all came back negative and I’m off back on the ferry this afternoon.’

Mr Gatland held exploratory talks with government officials on the possibility of his squad visiting the island for a training camp ahead of the South African tour.

He visited the Footes Lane facilities which could be used by the Lions squad, but was non-committal as to whether Guernsey would be used.

‘It’s something we’d never thought of before about the Channel Islands being an option and there was a chance to look at Guernsey, as well, as a potential option.

‘There’s also the fact that I’d been here before and there was a chance to come and check the place out again.

‘We looked at the ground with the stand and stuff with the running track, the pitch and everything in terms of the drainage and stuff.

‘We looked at the changing rooms and the club rooms. I was impressed with that.

‘We looked at the facilities at the hotel, the meeting room and things, so it is kind of looking at the logistics of things and going back and talking with our strength and conditioning person and one of the guys who does a lot of the planning for our medical team and assessing how things could possibly work and what the risks might be possibly as well.’

He declined to give any percentage chances of Guernsey being a pre-tour destination for the Lions.

‘With Guernsey particularly we don’t know what the situation will be like in June as we are preparing, but the opportunity for things to be open is an attractive idea, especially as these guys have been in stringent bubbles as far as the Six Nations was concerned.’

Meanwhile, Dr Nicola Brink assured islanders that his visit was ‘tightly controlled’ and she was comfortable it could be done safely.

‘We don’t want to get people’s hopes up in case it doesn’t happen, but this is potentially a fantastic opportunity and would provide the island’s economy with a significant boost at a time when we need to explore all possibilities,’ said the Chief Minister.

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