FIFPro boss backs players who fear Covid-19 infection if they return to work

March 20 – The head of world football’s players’ union has urged clubs not to force scared players to return to training saying it would be “inhumane and unacceptable” if they were punished for taking such a stance.

FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann’s (pictured) comments come after Troy Deeney of English Premier League side Watford refused to restart training ahead of a possible resumption of the season because he does not want to put his young child, who has breathing difficulties, at risk.

Deeney has also cited fears his family could be in danger because of figures that show black and ethnic minorities in the UK – which has the highest recorded death toll in Europe – are more likely to become seriously ill with Covid-19.

Deeney, said Baer-Hoffmann, is “a player who has very legitimate concerns and wants to protect his family.”

“If these players are being pressured or potentially facing disciplinary actions, we feel that is very much unacceptable.

“The idea that somebody may be punished in a pandemic for trying to protect his family’s health is inhumane and unacceptable.”

England defender Danny Rose, on loan at Newcastle United from Tottenham Hotspur, was recently quoted as saying players were being treated like “lab rats” as the Premier League attempts to start up  again.

In a conference call Wednesday, Baer-Hoffmann backed Rose. “No system can actually exclude the risk of infection, so it is a question about the probability by which you minimise that risk and many of the systems that we are seeing and reading about – not particularly England – still leave many, many gaps and many risks,” he  said.

Baer-Hoffmann says FIFPro have recommended that players undertake three to four weeks of training before fixtures again due to the risk of injury.

He highlighted the problems faced in nations far worse off than England.

Citing those in Latin American and Africa, he said some players were now relying on food packages from their local players’ union “because they cannot even provide for their own basic needs and are being stranded in terms of income”.

“There is an under-representation of the hardship that many players in less pronounced parts of the football ecosystem are facing. Some leagues are not providing testing material for the players which increases the risk of infection tremendously.”

There were also cases of players being threatened with disciplinary action for expressing concern about the health of their families, or being asked to sign a waiver regarding the consequences of a possible infection.

“The vast majority of players are under the same economic pressure as most people in society and don’t have the luxury of insisting on risk mitigation. They need to put food on the table and many are returning to play with doubts and fears, because they have no other choice.”

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