From tackling Ryan Giggs to fighting the coronavirus – York City legend Andy McMillan’s varied career

15:02:97: York City -v- Gillingham.
York Cities Andy McMillan gets into a tangle with the Gillingham opposition.15:02:97: York City -v- Gillingham.
York Cities Andy McMillan gets into a tangle with the Gillingham opposition.
15:02:97: York City -v- Gillingham. York Cities Andy McMillan gets into a tangle with the Gillingham opposition. | JPIMedia
ANDY McMillan was once tasked with containing Ryan Giggs during York City’s thrilling 3-0 Coca-Cola Cup triumph at Manchester United in 1995.

Now, a quarter of a century on, the former right-back’s day job entails halting the spread of coronavirus.

Both unenviable duties without a doubt, although McMillan – second only to 1960s stalwart Barry Jackson in the Minstermen’s all-time appearances list with 492 games to his name – argues that tackling Giggs, then 21 and the hottest talent in English football, was the more troublesome endeavour.

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“The shell of Covid-19 is actually quite fragile and can be popped pretty easily with the right treatment,” explains McMillan.

Ryan Giggs, manchester united v leeds united.Ryan Giggs, manchester united v leeds united.
Ryan Giggs, manchester united v leeds united. | JPIMedia

“The virus is also spread by people. It doesn’t move, so chasing Giggs around was much harder!”

McMillan –­ a business management graduate from the University of Leeds – launched York-based decontamination business BioDecon in January 2019 with two fellow directors, having grown disillusioned with football following coaching spells at Hull City, Lincoln, Barnet, Notts County, York, Grimsby and Alfreton.

He hung up his playing boots at the start of the millennium after leaving Bootham Crescent and a brief stint at Ayr United, but his only current involvement in the game is watching his son – emerging Leeds United youth-team striker Max.

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With Premier League and Championship players having now resumed training in a bid to complete the 2019/20 fixtures curtailed by coronavirus in March and Hull already reporting that two employees have tested positive for Covid-19, McMillan has warned clubs that the correct hygiene procedures must be followed to protect the health of their biggest assets and loyal staff members.

York CITY PHOTOCALL
Andy McMillanYork CITY PHOTOCALL
Andy McMillan
York CITY PHOTOCALL Andy McMillan | JPIMedia

He sees no reason, meanwhile, why golf clubs, who have taken the first tentative steps towards a return to normality, cannot become fully operational and reopen their clubhouses and locker rooms to the public after taking the necessary measures.

McMillan’s company dealt with the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the UK – that of a Chinese University of York student, who had stayed at the city’s StayCity hotel at the end of January.

The room was fully decontaminated and safe for the public to use again prior to lockdown, with hotel staff and cleaners given the peace of mind to return to work by an instantly-provided validation report using enzyme indicators.

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Since then, McMillan has recruited and trained new staff to cope with a pandemic-sized workload that he could not have anticipated when starting his business 15 months ago.

His clients have included hospitals, prisons, schools, offices, car sales rooms, councils, charities and even one operation that uses vegetable-picking robots.

BioDecon’s work has featured on BBC’s The One Show and Breakfast, ITV and Sky News and McMillan is now fielding inquiries from a number of golf courses and preparing to deep clean York City’s Bootham Crescent ground, as well as the new Community Stadium that was close to completion before lockdown.

In a BioDecon deep clean, all surfaces are manually cleansed by McMillan’s technicians and then sprayed with TOMI SteraMist (ionised hydrogen peroxide) before an anti-microbial coating called Zoono is applied.

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Zoono was developed in New Zealand whose handling of the coronavirus crisis has been lauded across the world, and all-known pathogens are killed when coming into contact with it. It is also odourless and less toxic than vitamin C and coffee, but tests have demonstrated that it is more than 99.99 per cent effective against Covid-19 and continues to work on surfaces for a minimum of 30 days.

In contrast, routine disinfectants cease to be effective when the surfaces become dry and, with studies suggesting this coronavirus can remain on objects for up to nine days, must be repeatedly applied.

BioDecon use Zoono as part of their EnviroGuard programme and the company also supply clients with the substance in hand foam form, which offers 24-hour protection, unlike sanitisers and soaps that suffer the same drying issues.

For sport, these are game changing qualities, not just in terms of making training ground facilities and golf clubhouses safely operational, but footballers’ training kits can even be cleaned in a washing machine with Zoono to provide further protection, while golf gloves can be covered in the hand foam too.

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But McMillan feels that football might be acting a little prematurely in its attempts to resume fixtures behind closed doors this month, aware of the potential of a second spike in the virus spread, if clubs do not have the safest measures in place.

The Football League have outlined in their first Protocol for Return to First Team Training draft which substances and chemicals should be used to ensure the highest standards of decontamination – the same as those recommended by the Government and Public Health England – but it is each individual club’s responsibility to appoint their own contractor.

It is understood the Premier League are also following the same decontamination advice.

Current PHE guidance for non-health care settings is to use hot soapy water on all surfaces followed by either a household detergent and disinfection, or a combined detergent disinfectant solution.

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Along with having serious reservations about that directive’s limitations, McMillan was also left a little concerned by another quote in the EFL report, which was sent to all member clubs, that placed a £50,000 cost on “the sterilisation of the training ground and stadium, and the appointment of occupational health officers, and also to disinfect GPS units being worn by the players post training”.

He now fears that clubs could be exploited by one of the many “unscrupulous cowboys” he has witnessed emerge since the Covid outbreak in an industry that is largely unregulated, arguing that teams could pay over the odds for shoddy and dangerous work.

“I saw one video of somebody in a Liverpool shop in protective gear spraying something, while the woman across the counter about a metre away was in normal clothing,” he points out.

“Clubs need to be careful and ask questions like ‘how are you validating the process and how do I know the treatments are working?’ You need to know that a safe environment has been created and somebody hasn’t just come along and sprayed some water.

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“Alcohol-based disinfectants can be effective in the short-term but will then stop working. I am seeing asbestos removal companies and window cleaners who have now set themselves up as decontamination specialists, because there’s nothing stopping them from doing that and we could have incidents where people get hurt and injured.

“Our staff have been to the United States for training and we provide clients with reports and enzyme indicators to prove the environment is safe.”

McMillan adds that to avoid cross-contamination every possible surface at a football training ground would need to be coated in Zoono, from taps to the physio bench, with players also applying the 24-hour hand foam on arrival.

But he fears the return of supporters to sports stadia may still be a distant possibility, explaining: “You could only do that, at the moment, if you coated every seat and railing and the fans would probably need to sit two or three seats away from each other if everybody hasn’t been tested like the footballers are being.”

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Participation in individual sports, rather than team games, appears more manageable, meanwhile, with McMillan believing his company can help golf shops throw open their doors to the public again.

“Courses have reopened but the clubhouses are still closed, but there’s no reason why they can’t open if all surfaces are sprayed and coated and everybody applies the hand foam,” he explains.

“It would be perfectly safe for people to go in the shops and test clubs if they use the hand foam.

“Nobody can touch the flags at the moment, but that would change if they were coated too,” he added.

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McMillan, a member at Sandburn Hall Golf Club in York, remains hopeful that professional and amateur sport will one day return to something resembling what we loved and recognised as normal pre-lockdown.

The key, above all of course, remains the discovery of a vaccine, but McMillan stresses that, moving forward, there is also a responsibility on everybody to pay greater attention to their own personal hygiene, adding: “It you’re playing golf and somebody is coughing and spluttering then maintain a safe distance from them and certainly don’t shake anybody’s hand if they went for a pee in the bushes halfway through the round!”

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