October 4 – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has taken the UK government to task over their change of heart in offering Premier League players exemptions if they are travelling to Covid red-list countries during this month’s international break.
Players who are double vaccinated will now be able to avoid a mandatory ten-day quarantine in a government hotel upon their return to the UK, but must instead follow strict ‘bubble’ conditions in order to train and play for their clubs.
These include staying in a club facility – rather than at home – for a 10-day period after their return to the UK and leaving that facility just once a day to train or play.
The quarantine relaxation means there will be no repeat of the farcical situation before and during the September window when clubs collectively refused to release players.
“We have worked closely with football authorities to achieve an outcome that balances the interests of both club and country while maintaining the highest levels of public health and safety,” the British government said in a statement.
“Our best defence against the virus is vaccination and these new measures will allow fully vaccinated players to fulfil their international duties in the safest, most practical way possible, while allowing them to train and play with their clubs as early as possible upon their return.”
Brazil has already issued call-ups to eight Premier League players for World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela, Colombia and Uruguay.
But Klopp believes the Covid protocols which clubs follow are so strict anyway that there should be no need for an exemption in the first place.
“That doesn’t sound to me like a real solution,” he said. “Brazil and other countries are on the red list for England, but for example they are not for France, Germany or Spain. The players there can come back and play immediately. Those countries can send their players, they can come back and have the normal life.
“The players are constantly in bubbles. They are here in a bubble, they are on international duty in a bubble. They come to training and go home. Now we have to put them in a hotel and deliver their food? It’s just not right.”
Alarmingly only seven of the 20 Premier League clubs have more than half of their squads fully vaccinated, according to the most recent data, a statistic that will raise eyebrows across the sport and beyond and which has prompted the intervention of Britain’s health secretary.
“I would just appeal to these people, whether they are footballers, whoever it is … that the vaccines are working,” Sajid Javid told Times Radio. “Help protect yourself and protect those around you. They’ve made a conscious choice (not to be vaccinated). It is disappointing, of course it is. …
“They are role models in society. People, especially young people, I think will look up to them and they should recognize that and the difference that can make in terms of encouraging others.”
FIFA happy with quarantine solution
While Klopp’s frustration with the UK quarantine requirements was clear, FIFA welcomed “the UK government`s decision to allow fully vaccinated players the opportunity to represent their countries in the upcoming qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup and return from a red-list country to bespoke quarantine conditions.” Though in reality the UK government had never prevented players from travel, clubs had.
In a statement FIFA said: “We have worked closely with the UK government, Football Association and Premier League to find a reasonable solution, in the interests of everyone, and we believe this is a much more desirable solution to the situation that players faced in September.
“FIFA believes this is a positive step in the right direction and appreciates the support and cooperation from all stakeholders in the game during a challenging period.
“We acknowledge this decision does not help every player and we remain committed to further improving the situation for upcoming windows and joining discussions to explain more about the many measures we are putting in place to reduce the risks of COVID transmission into the community as a result of player travel.”
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