Premier League clubs face sanctions if players ignore Covid rules

Premier League coaches fear they are powerless to stop players from breaching Covid restrictions during goal celebrations amid renewed warnings from the Government.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston has told footballers they must follow the strict Covid guidelines following numerous instances of players celebrating goals and managers shaking hands, while Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam has backed the calls for footballers to stop hugging.

But the general consensus among top-flight technical staff is that it is far-fetched to expect team-mates to refrain fully from celebrating goals in the heat of the moment. 

Manchester City players break Covid rules by hugging while celebrating against Brighton

Manchester City players break Covid rules by hugging while celebrating against Brighton

Manchester United stars broke new Covid rules by celebrating as a group on Tuesday night

Manchester United stars broke new Covid rules by celebrating as a group on Tuesday night

Everton players also ignored the rules when celebrating Alex Iwobi's goal against Wolves

Everton players also ignored the rules when celebrating Alex Iwobi’s goal against Wolves

Clubs have warned their squads to ensure they stay within the Premier League’s new bolstered guidelines – including maintaining social distancing when celebrating goals.

But senior technical staff members told Sportsmail on Wednesday that they expect their pleas to have minimal impact because players will naturally celebrate, certainly potentially match-winning strikes.

Indeed, there is also a sense of bemusement about the recent clampdown on celebrating goals among the playing community who believe restrictions on celebrations have always been in effect since football returned in June.

Nevertheless, players are coming under increasing pressure to refrain from celebrating close with their team-mates.

Clubs could face sanctions if they continue to break rules, like Wolves players did on Tuesday

Clubs could face sanctions if they continue to break rules, like Wolves players did on Tuesday

Sheffield United players also embraced after scoring in their first win of the league season

Sheffield United players also embraced after scoring in their first win of the league season

The football authorities are concerned that a failure to comply with regulations will see public pressure to call a second suspension to elite football intensify and trigger potential sanctions from the Government for flouting rules.

In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Huddleston said: ‘Everyone in the country has had to change the way they interact with people and ways of working.

‘Footballers are no exception. Covid secure guidelines exist for football. Footballers must follow them and football authorities enforce them – strictly.’

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters wrote to clubs on Tuesday to ‘stress the critical importance of adhering’ to the strengthened guidelines and reminded them they are ‘fortunate to be able to continue to play’.

League bosses are now under pressure to punish clubs for breaches, having put compliance officers – the so-called ‘snooper squad’ – in place to monitor and review conduct. 

Asked if it was time to issue ‘no kissing’ advice, Van-Tam told LBC: ‘I completely agree. We are in a very dangerous place now.

‘Every close human contact that is avoidable should be avoided because one in three of us will get the infection and have no symptoms at all. So on the football point and the sporting point, I do agree.’

Government ministers are still keen to avoid shutting down elite sport like they did last March, but are aware that continued flouting of rules weakens their case.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Elite sport is important. These are tough times and being able to watch the football on the telly is really important because there are loads of things that you can’t do. 

Sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, tweeted on Wednesday that players must follow the rules

Sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, tweeted on Wednesday that players must follow the rules

‘I know that the Premier League really think hard about this. It is important that it is carried out in a way that is respectful of the rules.

‘They have special arrangements to ensure that the players are safe and they have a testing regime, but I do think that it’s important that everybody respects, not just the letter, but the spirit of the rules.

‘It’s actually the spirit of the rules that’s important, which is don’t pass on the disease, act as if you’ve got it and then you won’t pass it on.’

Meanwhile, Sheffield Wednesday’s next two Championship fixtures have been postponed In a statement, it was revealed that the EFL have been informed that, due to a number of positive Covid tests, first team players and staff must self-isolate. 

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