The Chelsea doctor who enraged the club’s manager Jose Mourinho at the weekend was adhering to Britain’s General Medical Council (GMC) guidelines when she entered the field of play to treat an injured player.
Mourinho lost his temper after first-team doctor Eva Carneiro and physiotherapist Jon Fearn went onto the pitch to attend Chelsea’s Belgium international Eden Hazard in the closing moments of the English Premier League champions’ 2-2 draw at home to Swansea City on Saturday, the season’s opening day.
According to widespread reports, Carneiro has since been removed from the dugout on match days following strong criticism from Mourinho.
After contacting the club asking for clarification of Carneiro’s role, Chelsea said it wouldn’t “comment on internal staffing matters,” and did not immediately respond to CNN’s request to interview the doctor.
Soccer rules state that a player must leave the pitch for a short period once they have received medical attention, and Chelsea were already down to 10 players following the earlier sending off of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Television footage suggested match referee Michael Oliver twice indicated to the Chelsea bench that the medical team should come on after Hazard went to ground following a challenge by Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Under guidelines issued by the GMC – the body to which all practising medical doctors in Britain must be registered – a doctor must “take prompt action” if they believe a patient’s “safety, dignity or comfort are being compromised.”
Providers of medical care are obliged to put the GMC’s guidelines ahead of the wishes of any employer, and the organisation has the power to suspend or strike off those who do not meet its standards.
“We make it clear that doctors must make the care of their patient their first concern,” said a GMC statement sent to CNN.
After Saturday’s draw, Mourinho didn’t hold back in criticizing his medical team.
“I wasn’t happy with my medical staff because, even if you are a medical doctor or secretary on the bench, you have to understand the game,” he said.
“If you go to the pitch to assist a player, then you must be sure that a player has a serious problem. I was sure that Eden didn’t have a serious problem. He had a knock and was very tired.
“My medical department left me with eight fit outfield players in a counter attack after a set piece and we were worried we didn’t have enough players left.”
On Sunday, Carneiro posted a message on her Facebook page thanking “the general public for their overwhelming support. Really very much appreciated.”
The doctor’s post prompted a number of responses that were broadly sympathetic to her.
“You did the right thing Eva, health before all else,” posted Paul George. “Much as we love Jose he was bang out of order. Everyone is right behind you.”
Subsequently it has been widely reported by British media that although Carneiro will remain in her post as first-team doctor she will no longer be in attendance at games or training sessions, beginning with Sunday’s EPL trip to Manchester City.
However, she will continue her work with first-team players at the London club’s training ground in Cobham, Surrey.
Fearn was reported to have been privately reprimanded by Mourinho, while other reports claimed Hazard had indicated that he wanted to come off the field.
The manager’s actions were condemned by Australia’s cricket team doctor Peter Brukner, formerly Liverpool’s head of sports medicine and sports science.
“I thought it was appalling behaviour by the manager,” Brukner told radio station talkSPORT.
“He has a player who has gone down, who has remained down and the referee obviously considered it serious enough to summon on the doctor and the physio.
“They went on, as they must do when they are summoned on and the player is down, and as a result the player had to come off the ground.
“What do you expect the doctor to do? Just ignore the referee beckoning them on?”
Brukner also suggested Mourinho should say sorry to his medical department.
“The medical staff deserve a public apology and I’m very disappointed that the club hasn’t come out and done something to support them – they were just doing their job.
“Our first priority as doctors and physios is the health and safety of the individual player, and that’s what they were attending to.”
Carneiro, who initially joined Chelsea in a role with the reserve team, was promoted to first-team work by former manager Andre Villas-Boas in 2011 and continued in that role under Rafael Benitez and then Mourinho.
One of only a small number of women in a first-team EPL set-up, she has suffered sexist abuse from sections of the crowds at Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal.
Speaking at a conference staged by the Swedish football federation last year, Carneiro hit out at the stereotyping of female doctors in television programs, saying: “In every television program I have ever watched, the female doctor is hyper-sexualised.
“She goes off with Tom Cruise and it is all happy endings. Or she is not present. Or she is a lesbian. This is the perception young girls grow up with of what a female doctor is.”