Tony Strudwick reveals the on-field gadget keeping Sheffield Wednesday players safe

Player welfare has been of paramount importance at Sheffield Wednesday since their return from the coronavirus-enforced suspension of the season.
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And the club’s head of sports science Tony Strudwick has revealed how the club are using GPS technology to guard the players against the threat of the virus, implementing their own track and trace system in order to measure how long players are in close contact with each other and their opponents.

Owls boss Garry Monk made it clear at the outset that his players would be put first at every turn as football considered its response to the outbreak.

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In line with government and FA regulations, they are tested twice a week and are operating in bio-secure environments to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. A Wednesday coach was diagnosed last month and self-isolated in accordance with these regulations.

Sheffield Wednesday's head of sports science and medicine Tony Strudwick.Sheffield Wednesday's head of sports science and medicine Tony Strudwick.
Sheffield Wednesday's head of sports science and medicine Tony Strudwick.

“It was really important that we had some kind of objective to see what players were doing and the proximity report just allows us to ensure players are not spending too much time within a two-metre distance of each other,” Strudwick told PA.

“What we also get is the amount of time spent in close contact, so we can get a matrix between a number of players when they come in close proximity.

“Logistically it has been a big planning operation to make sure that our players are not spending too much time too close to each other.

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“You can implement the track and trace policy, we have an objective manner of going back and looking.

“The technology allows us to go back and look at the member of staff and see where they were at any one time and see which players came into contact. The information will be really critical to make sure we minimise risks.

“It's been invaluable. In the event of a positive test it allows us to go back and track and trace where players have been.”

The technology has been used in a number of sports and what has been interesting, Strudwick said, is how little time footballers actually spend in close proximity to another player during their time on the pitch.

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“When you are playing 11 v 11 the time spent in a real close proximity is less than five minutes," Strudwick said. “It is one of the safest things to do.

“For central defenders marking a striker they get relatively close. In wider areas we have found there is not a lot of contact, that can be less than two minutes. An 11 v 11 game is quite free-flowing. Players are continuously on the move.”

Strudwick was brought to Sheffield Wednesday by Steve Bruce last year and has proven an invaluable asset to the club, especially during the return to football.

Speaking to The Star during lockdown, first team coach Lee Bullen said: “Tony coming in was huge for the football club. His experience of being at a club like Man United and working with the Welsh national team is great, particularly with what's going on."