Premier League statement on enhanced COVID-19 protocols

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The Premier League, The Football Association and the Women’s Super League have issued a joint statement urging players and clubs to adhere to stricter COVID-19 protocols so the 2020-21 season can carry on.

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Terms such as ‘full compliance’ and ‘critical’ prove how serious the Premier League is about controlling this outbreak.

After a surge in cases across England in recent weeks, multiple games have been called off at the professional level due to outbreaks at clubs, which include Aston Villa, Newcastle, Fulham and Manchester City in the Premier League. Testing has been ramped up to twice per week across the professional game to try and stop the surge in cases.

With England currently in its third lockdown as COVID-19 cases spiral out of control due to the new variant, the Premier League, FA and WSL have issued a detailed statement as their players, coaches and staff are under increasing pressure to stick to the rules and not hug each other, shake hands or celebrate goals in large groups.

In short, get used to seeing more elbow taps and air high fives for goal celebrations. I’m sure Premier League players will come up with some creative ways of celebrating.

Here is the statement in full from the soccer authorities, as they try to ensure that the UK government doesn’t step in and stop elite sport from taking place during the current lockdown:

“The Football Association, Premier League, EFL and Barclays Women’s Super League have this week introduced enhanced COVID-19 measures and stressed their importance to everyone in the game. Safety is a collective effort and football requires the ongoing support of clubs, managers, players and all those involved in staging matches to continue to manage the spread of infection and set the right example to the public on and off the pitch.”

“We will offer guidance, education and support as well as reviewing our practices to ensure they remain of the highest standard. Our three organisations have confidence in our COVID-19 protocols and our ability to bring the season to a successful conclusion. Throughout this crisis, the health, safety and wellbeing of all participants have been our No 1 priority and, by following the national rules and football’s own strict medical and scientific advice, football has been able to maintain its privileged position and continue to engage and entertain millions of people around the country.

“The game has a responsibility, and during this critical period it is down to everyone involved to ensure they follow Government rules and our protocols. We have seen the huge contribution players have made to the national effort and they must continue to use their influence in demonstrating the importance of following the rules. With full compliance to our COVID-19 protocols – alongside effective testing regimes – we are confident at the halfway point of the season that, with the support of all, the 2020/21 campaign will continue to its conclusion in May.”

How will this be enforced?

This is the biggest problem.

Even though the overwhelming majority of players and managers are doing their very best to follow all of the rules, we are still seeing players hug each other and celebrate wildly when they score a goal, while coaches are hugging one another and shaking hands before games.

All of that has to stop, according to this statement, or the risk is very real that the professional game in England will be forced to shut down by the government.

Banning players or handing out fines has been discussed as one way to stop players from breaking the regulations, and the former has been down for breaches by players in Scotland.

Following scenes in the FA Cup third round which showed players not following COVID-19 protocols, plus high-profile PL stars breaking the lockdown rules over the Christmas period, multiple reports claim that the UK government was far from impressed that players and staff were not following the rules closely enough despite being one of the only industries allowed to carry on throughout the lockdown.

It’s now down to the clubs and their players to follow this advice as closely as they possibly can.