Manchester United boss Casey Stoney has admitted she made an “error in judgement” after giving her players permission to travel abroad over the winter break.
Stoney confirmed rumours that some of her players had gone to Dubai over the festive period but said there have been no coronavirus cases reported in United’s squad.
United’s game at Everton on Sunday has been postponed due to the Merseyside club not being able to field a 14-player squad due to recent positive Covid-19 cases and injuries.
And while the Barclays FA Women’s Super League leaders were covered by tier three rules at the time, Casey apologised for letting her players travel to the United Arab Emirates.
“We were in tier three at the time and we felt that we were making an informed decision. On reflection, it wasn't a good decision and I'll admit that,” Stoney said.
“I'm not going to single out players and crucify them. At the end of the day, it was a club decision and unfortunately it wasn't the right one.
“I said before Christmas that I will always take my players' wellbeing into consideration and I granted permission for my players to go home and see family and to go away and have a break.
“On reflection, I do trust my players wholeheartedly to stick within government guidelines, everything we allowed them to do was within government guidelines.
“But I have to be honest and on reflection, it was probably a poor error in judgement from me. I'm sincerely sorry for that because the buck stops with me and it starts with me and I'm responsible for that.
“Everything was considered as a club - the player needs, and that's why it was approved. Now on reflection, I'm human, I make mistakes and I made a mistake and I'm taking responsibility for it.”
Everton issued a statement on Friday confirming five of their players had contracted the virus between Christmas and New Year, prompting the postponement of their clash with United.
Currently, games can be postponed if either side is unable to field a squad of at least 14 players due to Covid-19 but Stoney said that she would never want to call a game off.
“I wouldn't want to call a game off,” she said. “Obviously, I'm saying that we potentially made poor decisions over Christmas, had that have come back to us then I still wouldn't have wanted to call the game off because of the integrity of what we're doing.
“I want my players to play. If I'm the one saying we're prepared to allow people to go and I'm saying it's a risk that I'm willing to take for their needs, their emotional needs, I'm not going to call a game off.
“It's my decision and why should the rest of my players suffer? For the integrity of the competition, I would never ask for a postponement. It's not something I would do.
“We wouldn't ask for a postponement unless there was an absolute outbreak or crisis.
“We wouldn't do that because my players train hard - I was a player, we trained to play. We only ever want to play games - so why would I want to postpone games and deny them the opportunity.”
The EFL have recently increased their Covid-19 testing at clubs to twice a week - the same as the Premier League - and Stoney would be supportive of a similar approach in the WSL.
“Ultimately, our players are people,” she said.
“They go home to people and some people go home to vulnerable people as well. Having twice-a-week testing would help as long as they are the right type of tests.”