Footballers and their unexpected covid test results ahead of the match

By Dr Billy “The Dog” McGraw of the Deparment of Statistical Anomolies at the University College Hospital of the North Circular Road.

The Liverpool manager, Mr Klopp, has revealed that Trent Alexander-Arnold was the only Liverpool player to actually test positive for Covid.

And yet the game last Thursday was called off – according to the media on the grounds that the club had under 14 first team players who were fit to play.

The Mirror seeks to explain this away on the grounds that the other players had false positive results to their covid tests.  So what does this mean and what were Liverpool playing at?

A false positive in this case arises when someone who does not have coronavirus, tests positive for it.  All medical tests produce false positives simply because the measurements are quite difficult to make and  no test is 100% accurate.  Of course if you are measuring the number of legs people have, looking for people with three legs you tend to get few false positives, but seeking a virus is more difficult.

So a false positive rate refers to the people who are not infected but get positive results.  Dr Paul Birrell, a statistician at the Medical Research Council’s Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge, said on the BBC,  “The false positive rate is not well understood and could potentially vary according to where and why the test is being taken. A figure of 0.5% for the false positive rate is often assumed.”

Now let’s see what the Liverpool figure means

If you tested 1,000 people at random for Covid-19 in early September, for example, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection study suggests you should have expected one of them actually to have the virus.

With a false positive rate of 0.8% – you would get one false positive among each 100 positive results.  These are people who tested positive but didn’t have the disease.   So you would need to test around 100 people who are shown to have the disease to get one person with a false positive – one person who the test said had the disease but didn’t.

Yet Liverpool tested 24 players and 12 of them would have needed to have positive results to have been classified as having covid and thus have the match called off.   But now we are told a lot of them were false positives.  But to get 10 false positives – enough to have the game called off – you will need to test 1250 people. 

But this is the sort of number Liverpool must have got for the game to be called off, but for the players then to be immediately ready to play this week.   


If so, this is a major new development both in football and of the testing programme.  In fact it means the entire testing programme in the UK is useless.

In reality the testing programme might be very inaccurate, but it is not utterly impossible.  

But here is the amazing thing.   The Liverpool manager came out and said “We got a lot of false positives” and none of the journalists questioned it or asked how many.  A revelation to modern medicine and everyone let it go by without a question!

It really is amazing.  So why are the media not crawling all over this?  Why are they not talking about the Liverpool Variant?

Or is the Liverpool Variant a Variant on reality?

Incidentally, if you are interested in the rate of infection one of the big issues is the actual accuracy of do it yourself tests, both in showing people who have the virus, and avoiding showing people who don’t have the virus, as having it, and people who do have the virus not having it.  The problem is testing is inaccurate but is treated as gospel.  (And just in case you think this is an anti-vax article – not that there is any reason to think that – it isn’t.  Everyone working on Untold has had three jabs – mostly because we are all old.)


10 Replies to “Footballers and their unexpected covid test results ahead of the match”

  1. I wonder whether the announcement that Liverpool had closed their training ground was a tactical ploy to force the decision to postpone the match.

  2. I’m neither a statistician nor a mathematician but as a layperson I would have thought a 0.5% false rate would have been 5 in every 1,00 or 1 in 200 and with a false positive of 0.8% it would be 8 per 1,000 or 1 in every 125.

    Can someone explain this for me please.

  3. All I know is, it’s Liverpool we’re talking about, so whatever it is, it certainly wont be Liverpools fault, because it never is.

  4. Klopp is trying to get Thursdays game postponed until after the AFCON because one of his players has the clap

  5. Surely, the question is why would Liverpool want to call off the match, not how they achieved it?

  6. The reason the question of HOW is important is because Liverpool may or may not of lied or fabricated or exaggerated about their situation to get the match called off, which could of broken rules, and that’s the key.

    I’m not saying they have, but the medical history and the statistics regarding false positives suggests something doesn’t add up. Therefore I feel asking for an explanation as to HOW those false positives came about is the least the authorities should do.

    If there was anything dodgy behind those false positives it is irrelevant as to WHY.

    And in any case if, nothing else, the HOW is important because these results have contradicted all previous scientific data relating to False Negatives, something I’m sure the scientific community would be interested in, if not the FA.

  7. Liverpool must have thought that they have played a lot of games in a short time period and they are not in great shape so they used what ever they could to get a favourable breather to recoup.
    Set up for Liverpool Chelsea final.

  8. Goonergerry


    The reason as to why may be as simple as the players needing a rest.

    Whatever the reason may or may not of been, were Liverpool ever likely to admit “We had half a dozen players in ‘the red zone’ and playing them would of put them at risk of injury” ? Hardly.

    There could, I repeat could be lots of reasons, but it’s irrelevant.

  9. RAT – “It is important, however, that the tests are carried out correctly, by qualified personnel”.

    PCR – Don’t send them to Wolverhampton.

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