GOSPORT Borough have issued an extraordinary statement denying that their players were made to “sleep rough” on their pre-season trip to Guernsey.
With Borough leading 6-1, Friday night’s Channel Island friendly ended prematurely when the floodlights went out on 72 minutes.
But the real talking point arose when pictures appeared on social media of the players apparently sleeping rough on their overnight stay.
Jamie Brown, who captained Borough in the FA Trophy final at Wembley last season, jokingly posted several photos of his teammates in sleeping bags on Twitter, accompanied by the tongue-in-cheek comment: “Just to highlight wot Gosport think of their players!”
The joke was lost on the Privett Park club, however, who today released the following statement: “The Club wishes to address recent allegations made against it regarding Friday’s trip to Guernsey to play a pre-season friendly and most specifically the allegation that it forced its players to “sleep rough” on the night of the game.
“It would also like to offer the background to the story to allow a better understanding of the relevant issues and dismiss speculation and other allegations that have been laid at the club’s door on social media this weekend.
“Firstly, GBFC wishes to make it very clear that it takes its duty of care to its players very seriously and never has/never will neglect that duty. It also wishes to make absolutely clear that it affords all players the greatest of respect.
“A week ago, the management and Senior Officers at the Club felt there would be no choice other than to cancel the scheduled game at Guernsey F.C due to a lack of acceptable accommodation on the Island.
“This occurred for a number of reasons. Firstly, the hotel which had been reserved on our behalf by the Guernsey fc travel coordinator was under investigation and threat of closure. We could not allow the players to travel with the possibility of having nowhere to stay.
“An Island-wide search for acceptable hotel accommodation drew a blank. Guernsey only has 4,000 hotel beds in total and due to it being the summer season and the number of rooms required to accommodate a 20 man squad reduced the options.
“The Club then investigated the suggestion of players camping and then switched its search to campsites. The three camping sites on Guernsey were also full. At this point the game was to be cancelled.
“The suggestion of Guernsey F.C that its own facilities were available for camping was then considered and management, in consultation with senior players in the squad, decided that they would accept this arrangement as they felt it would aid team bonding.
“The Club wishes to make it absolutely clear that at this point the players agreed to travel on this basis and they wanted to play the game.
“The players were also due to enjoy a night out after the game as alluded to in an article in the Portsmouth News on Friday of this week.
“Consideration was also made of the Club’s supporters who had already paid for flights and accommodation to see the match, and how upset they would be if it was called off. So on Wednesday of last week, with everyone including the players seemingly happy with the arrangements, the game was confirmed as going ahead.
“On Thursday evening, some 14 hours before the party was due to travel, it became known that the tents required would need to be taken with the travelling squad as none were available on the Island, by this point, with all arrangements in place it was too late to cancel. Some suitable tents were found in the small time available, but not for everyone. But again, at this point, the players were fully aware of this.
“After the game, the players then embarked on a night out and returned in the early hours and slept. “They then returned to the mainland UK early on Saturday morning as planned. By 0900 on Saturday, the Club became aware of a large amount of social media activity regarding the night before. Specifically from one particular Gosport Borough player who made a number of critical comments about the club and the trip. “The Club respects the opinions of its officials, supporters and players and respects their right to air them and to use social media. However, as employees of the club, players have a duty to conduct themselves in a professional and respectful manner towards their employers.
""GBFC cannot accept when false allegations and comments are made leading to the Club’s reputation being damaged. So in the light of these allegations the Club’s responses are as follows; 1. The players were at no time FORCED to accept these arrangements. They were fully aware of the situation. They also wanted to travel and play the game despite what would largely be viewed as unacceptable accommodation arrangements. One or two players chose not to travel for personal reasons or work commitments. Had the players wanted the game to be called off, it would have been.
"The personal allegation made against the club’s manager Alex Pike who had booked a hotel room for himself and his wife at their own expense on their first wedding anniversary, a reservation made at the time of the game being arranged rather than recently. Mr & Mrs Pike would have kept the reservation had the game been called off. Mrs Pike was the only club official able to attend the game and as the only female on the trip could not have been expected to share facilities with the team 1. The hotel used by Mr and Mrs Pike was not able or willing to accommodate a football team and did not have sufficient availability in any event.
2. The Club officials wanted the game to be postponed in light of the lack of hotel accommodation but the majority of players asked to continue with the fixture. The Club reluctantly agreed, also bearing in mind its supporters who had paid to travel. It is incorrect to say that the club was not prepared to fund hotel accommodation or that the camping was a cost saving exercise.
3. The view of the vast majority of the players is that they enjoyed the trip and they fully understand the reasons why the accommodation was such a difficult issue to resolve.
The Club takes its duty of care to its players very seriously and does respect them.
"Finally, the Club wishes to express its disappointment that, some people are very quick to jump to conclusions before all the facts are known especially when the Club’s reputation stands to be damaged by misrepresentation. It also wishes to conclude this issue quickly so that all concerned can concentrate fully on the opening game of the Vanarama South at Chelmsford City this coming weekend."