Football bosses warned to act on rule-breakers after Covid rule breaks
Football’s last chance: Government DID discuss stopping sport during new lockdown with Premier League and FA bosses warned that spiralling cases and players flouting Covid rules could spark a shutdown
- Talks were held over including stopping elite sport in the new English lockdown
- Premier League players are breaking Covid rules and teams’ cases have doubled
- Former FA chairman David Bernstein has said football should be suspended
- Elite sport is said to do ‘more good than harm’ – but pressure is rising to stop it
- Member of SAGE says football needs to do more to stop spread of mutant Covid
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has warned English football’s leaders to get their house in order after a shutdown of sport was discussed as part of the nation’s new lockdown.
In meetings on Monday, the Government came under pressure to call a halt to elite sport only for the Department for Culture Media and Sport to resist, claiming sport currently does more good than harm.
But with coronavirus cases in the Premier League doubling this week and players at major clubs flouting lockdown rules to host and attend parties over Christmas and New Year, the pressure is rising.
The Telegraph report that even some senior figures within football want the season suspended and the behaviour of rule-breaking players is said to be making carrying on with sport more difficult to defend.
The Premier League, lower-league EFL and Football Association have all failed to take action against players, leaving it to clubs who have minimised punishments for their highly-paid employees.
Forty players and staff tested positive for the virus in the latest rounds of Premier League testing this week and games continue to be called off in the EFL with fears of more postponements as the FA Cup third-round approaches next weekend.
Three Spurs stars and a West Ham player (identified above) broke rules to party despite Covid-19 restrictions being in place over the Christmas period
Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic (left) was seen breaking Covid rules at a New Year’s Eve party with Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic (right)
HOW PREMIER LEAGUE STARS BROKE RULES
Tottenham’s Sergio Reguilon, Erik Lamela and Giovani Lo Celso were fined and reminded of their responsibilities after they were pictured in a large group photo alongside West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini and their families on Christmas Day.
Manchester City say they are investigating after Benjamin Mendy held a New Year’s Eve party which included guests from outside his household. He was a substitute in City’s next game.
Crystal Palace and Fulham launches investigations into Aleksandar Mitrovic and Luka Milivojevic after they were pictured partying together – but Palace fielded the midfielder as captain in their next game.
Women’s football, which restarts next weekend, faces a slew of postponed matches after a number of players tested positive for Covid – most notably at Arsenal and Manchester City after their stars took holidays in Dubai during the winter break.
Those issues leave have elite sport at risk of losing the privileges it is currently afforded, by continuing while most other activities have been curtailed.
Today, Professor Gabriel Scally, a public health expert and a member of the independent SAGE group which holds the government’s Covid advisors to account, told Sportsmail that the football authorities need to do more to control the spread of mutant Covid.
‘The new variant is more transmissible,’ he said. ‘What might have worked in terms of stopping the transmission previously will be only half as effective.
‘They have got to up their game in light of the new variant.’
Tottenham’s Sergio Reguilon, Erik Lamela and Giovani Lo Celso partied with West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini on Christmas Day, breaking strict Tier 4 rules about gatherings. Spurs have fined their players but allowed them to continue playing.
Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic played after breaking Covid rules at a New Year’s Eve party with Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic and Benjamin Mendy has not be taken out of Manchester City’s squad despite hosting his own New Year gathering.
Currently, nobody is willing to take responsibility for tackling the breaches. The Premier League believes it is a matter for the clubs and suggests its own protocols do not extend beyond match days and training. The EFL believes the FA should act, but the FA says its rules do not extend to Covid rule breaches.
A leading expert in public health told Sportsmail that players who flagrantly ignore the rules the nation has had to follow should be banned for up to six weeks – and the FA needs to take responsibility.
‘It is weak management,’ said Professor Keith Neale, an expert in public health at the University of Nottingham. ‘They should give them a six-week ban if players breach the rules put in place for colleagues’ protection.
Pep Guardiola’s decision to back Benjamin Mendy after he broke Covid rules angered fans
‘Football authorities are taking a risk by not dealing with ‘covidiots’. I do not want to ban football, but I do want to make it safe.’
Professor Neal is critical of Pep Guardiola after the Manchester City manager defended left back Mendy over his party at his £5million manson.
Guardiola still decided to name Mendy as a substitute for Sunday’s Premier League win at Chelsea and then launched a passionate defence of the 26-year-old.
But Neale added: ‘What happened at Manchester City was clearly unacceptable and it was not acceptable to say, it was OK.’
Former FA chairman David Bernstein previously told Sportsmail that he believes football should now be suspended.
‘There is a real danger in the examples being set by players. A confusing message is being sent to the public about matches being played at all at such a dangerous time, when it is possible that Covid deaths could exceed 1,000 per day.
‘Part of the reason for the spread of the virus to such dangerous levels is non compliance by some of the public. In these circumstances there is a strong argument for football being suspended in order to reinforce a very difficult message.
Shutting down sport was considered as part of Boris Johnson’s latest lockdown – and culture secretary Oliver Dowden has warned football’s leaders over the game’s issues
‘We need a strong level of compliance to combat it. With some reluctance, I think it would be better to suspend football at the moment.’
Meanwhile, a senior figure within one of the Premier League’s television rights holders has today described the breach of Covid rules by footballers as ‘disgusting’.
An unnamed individual within a large Premier League TV rights holder, which are shared between Sky, BT Sport, Amazon Prime and the BBC domestically, has hit out at the players and their clubs, claiming the players should be sacked for such a blatant breach of the Government’s guidelines.
They said: ‘Our view is that some of the behaviour has been disgusting and unacceptable.
‘If any of your colleagues broke the rules and endangered lives – forget the commercial damage – they would be fired.
‘Never mind that ordinary people pay players’ bills. Why should players be treated any differently? If anything there should be greater repercussions on them due to their privileged position and onus of responsibility.
‘It can mean planned broadcasts having to be shut down at the last minute and having to be rescheduled for later on. The more that conduct continues, the longer period of time ultimately there could be without football and without fans, and the longer the product looks different.
‘All this disruption is caused by people who ultimately we as broadcasters are paying a huge amount of money to. I have never understood why some players think they’re immune from the rules the rest of society is expected to follow.’
PREMIER LEAGUE COVID-19 TEST RESULTS FOR 2020-21 SEASON
Round 1: Aug 31-Sep 6 – 1,605 tested, with three testing positive.
Round 2: Sep 7-13 – 2,131 tested, with four testing positive.
Round 3: Sep 14-20- 1,574 tested, with three testing positive.
Round 4: Sep 21-27 – 1,595 tested, with 10 testing positive.
Round 5: Sep 28-Oct 4 – 1,587 tested, with nine testing positive.
Round 6: Oct 5-11 – 1,128 tested, with five testing positive.
Round 7: Oct 12-18 – 1,575 tested, with eight testing positive.
Round 8: Oct 19-25 – 1,609 tested, with two testing positive.
Round 9: Oct 26-Nov 1 – 1,446 tested, with four testing positive.
Round 10: Nov 2-8 – 1,646 tested, with four testing positive.
Round 11: Nov 9-15 – 1,207 tested, with 16 testing positive.
Round 12: Nov 16-22 – 1,530 tested, with eight testing positive.
Round 13: Nov 23-29 – 1,381 tested, with 10 testing positive.
Round 14: Nov 30-Dec 6 – 1,483 tested, with 14 testing positive.
Round 15: Dec 7-13 – 1,549 tested, with six testing positive.
Round 16: Dec 14-20 – 1,569 tested, with seven testing positive
Round 17: Dec 21-27 – 1,479 tested, with 18 testing positive
Round 18: Dec 28-Jan 3 – 2,295 tested, with 40 testing positive
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