January 11 – Following a string of postponed games and scores of players being forced to self-isolate, the English Premier League has threatened disciplinary action against anyone who breaches strict Covid-19 protocols.
Four top-flight games have so far been postponed this season and more than 50 games in the lower divisions of the English Football League.
The British government has allowed elite sports to continue despite the country being placed into a third lockdown. But there are now growing concerns that all football at all levels could be suspended as the spread of coronavirus worsens.
Compliance officers have now been given the green light to go into training grounds and dressing rooms on matchdays to check coronavirus protocols are being followed and in a hardline directive, the Premier League has re-iterated that players should not hug each other after goals and that shirt-swapping should stop in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.
Clubs have also been warned they can only remove masks when playing, warming up or during post-match interviews.
In its letter, the Premier League warned it would not tolerate any more players flouting the rules as happened over the Christmas and New Year period.
“It is vital to ensure public, government and stakeholder confidence in the training and match-day protocols that individual transgressions by relevant persons are appropriately investigated and sanctioned by clubs,” the league said.
“Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action by the league individually against the relevant person, where appropriate (for example, where his or her conduct brings the league into disrepute) and/or against the club (where the relevant person’s conduct constitutes a breach of the training protocol).”
Aston Villa’s upcoming home league games against Tottenham Hotspur and Everton are both in doubt and their chief executive Christian Purslow told Sky: “There are moments when young people will stray from the rules and, whether you’re a parent or the chief executive of a football club, that’s a time when you have to be very strict and remind people of their responsibilities.”
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