May 15, 2020 / 4:45 PM / 21 days ago

Austrian leaders Linz admit training sessions broke coronavirus rules

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian league leaders LASK Linz admitted on Friday that they had held four training sessions which broke COVID-19 regulations.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - LASK Linz Training - Pasching, Austria - April 20, 2020 LASK Linz's Gernot Trauner wearing a protective face mask during training despite most sport being cancelled around the world as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID19) continues REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

The case, which has left the club facing disciplinary action including a possible points deduction, came to light after the other eleven Austrian Bundesliga teams said they had seen videos which showed Linz holding full training sessions.

Under government rules, the players should have remained in small groups of up to six and stayed two metres apart.

Club vice-president Juergen Werner said the club felt safe and wanted tougher training sessions after the entire squad and staff repeatedly tested negative.

“We felt safe and certainly did not endanger anyone,” he told a news conference. “It was just a stupid thing today. We could have waited a few more days.”

“We have taken the strictest measures possible,” he added. “The players arrived alone, did their own laundry. We packed them food and put it out for them.”

The Austrian government allowed teams to start training in small groups for April 20. Full group training was permitted from Friday and the championship will resume on June 2.

On Thursday, Linz said that they had been victims of “industrial espionage”, claiming that two men had entered the club and installed video surveillance equipment. However, Werner did not want to go into details.

“We don’t want to turn ourselves into the victims,” he said.

Coach Valerien Ismael apologised. “It is about four training sessions in which we wanted to gain an impulse. That was a mistake but the basic idea was not to gain an advantage. We stand up for our mistake and apologise for it,” said the Frenchman.

There will be 10 rounds of matches to play when the league resumes.

Linz, aiming to win the title for only the second time and the first since 1965, lead the championship group by three points from title holders Salzburg with Rapid Vienna a further four behind.

Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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