Saturday 03 April 2021
Preliminary talks are taking place between the States of Guernsey and the British Lions over the potential for the rugby stars to visit the island in mid-June for a training camp.
British Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland has had exploratory talks with government officials but nothing at this stage is certain. However, such a visit would likely provide a boost to the economy and in doing so promote the positive and safe position the island has achieved.
As part of the initial talks Mr Gatland was given special permission to visit the island, alone and under very tight restrictions put in place by the Director of Public Health, so that he could visit the facilities on offer.
Deputy Peter Ferbrache, Chairman of the Civil Contingencies Authority, said:
'While there is no guarantee that the British Lions will visit in June, what we could guarantee was that they wouldn't be able to unless their Head Coach had been able to satisfy himself that the rugby and necessary facilities on-island were appropriate for their needs. 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.'
Paul Whitfield, States of Guernsey Chief Executive, said:
'As everyone in our community knows we take the border restrictions very seriously, it is one of the reasons we have been so successful in managing the pandemic, but we have also built flexibility into the system to support where there is a specific need. We have seen this in the way we have controlled, monitored and tested essential visitors to the island and we're grateful to Mr Gatland for understanding the need for us to put strict measures in place for him to be able to visit. We'll continue discussions with him and his colleagues as clearly we would welcome the opportunity to host the British Lions and demonstrate that Guernsey can be chosen to do so safely.'
Dr Nicola Brink, Director of Public Health, said:
'This was a short visit over two days that was very tightly controlled, so we were comfortable it could be done safely. Measures including a post-travel test result, test on arrival, testing on each day, remaining in a hotel room with room service for meals and only leaving to visit a specific location or drive around the island in a car, were put in place. This is a process we have used many times during our management of the pandemic where there has been a justifiable need for someone to visit the island but not complete the full self-isolation requirements. For example the election, when we had officials visit the island to support with the scanning machines and we put strict testing and other measures in place. I thank Mr Gatland for his full co-operation.'