Government ministers alarmed by exuberant Cup celebrations
Government ministers worried by FA Cup celebrations as players hug on the pitch, sing in the dressing rooms and ignore social distancing while Covid infection rates soar across the country and calls for football to be stopped get louder
- Football authorities warned clubs to observe Covid guidelines ahead of cup ties
- Players were seen enthusiastically celebrating goals and embracing each other
- Ex-FA chairman David Bernstein has again called for football to be suspended
- Watford striker Troy Deeney has asked Boris Johnson to call a halt to the game
- Exuberant scenes ‘not gone unnoticed’ by ministers, says a Whitehall source
Government ministers are alarmed after witnessing players and staff celebrating exuberantly during the FA Cup third round and failing to comply with social distancing rules, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson considered a stricter lockdown for the rest of the country.
The scenes are likely to bring more pressure to suspend matches as the NHS is stretched to breaking point by the spread of the mutant strain of coronavirus, with former FA chairman David Bernstein and Watford striker Troy Deeney saying it is time to halt the game.
Clubs were reminded by the football authorities of the need to maintain distance, on and off the pitch, prior to this weekend’s fixtures.
Chorley players were among many to celebrate during FA Cup matches this weekend
Goal celebrations in which players cuddle was pinpointed as an area of particular concern and changing rooms, where the virus can spread on matchdays, has also been highlighted.
However, the emotion of the cup got the better of many players with group cuddles and dressing-room songs as teams celebrated their victories.
The images make it harder for ministers to justify the continuation of elite sport while draconian restrictions are placed on the rest of the population to stem the spread of mutant Covid, which is much more infectious than the initial strain.
Crawley Town also celebrated on and off the pitch after a remarkable win over Leeds United
At Chorley, the players were recorded belting out the Adele song, Someone Like You, in the dressing room after their 2-0 victory over Championship side, Derby County.
And the beer and champagne flowed at CrawleyTown, as players embraced in the changing rooms following their 3-0 giant killing against Leeds United.
A Whitehall source told the Telegraph that the various incidents had ‘not gone unnoticed’ inside government, as the Covid infection rate soared across the country and chief medical officer, Chris Witty, warned that ‘the NHS is in the most dangerous situation in living history’.
Crawley players enjoyed their victory over Premier League opposition, Leeds, winning 3-0
Witty said there are 30,000 people in hospital with Covid, compared to the peak of 18,000 in April and MailOnline has been told that ministers have considered telling the public they can only leave the house once a week in an attempt to bring infection rates down.
The UK announced a further 573 coronavirus deaths yesterday in the highest Sunday rise since April, and the third-deadliest Sunday of the entire pandemic as it emerged as many as one in five of all people in England may have had coronavirus.
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty took to the airwaves to highlight the scale of the threat, saying that there are 30,000 people in hospital compared to the peak of 18,000 in April
Infections also continue to be high, with 54,940 announced yesterday – the 13th day in a row they have been above the 50,000 mark.
Football authorities reiterated the need to scrupulously observe Covid protocols last week, after a series of postponements, and positive tests across the Premier League and EFL.
All players participating in the FA Cup were tested 72 hours before kick-off and the Professional Footballers’ Association warned its members not to celebrate goals with hugs.
Tottenham Hotspur’s players ran to youngster Alfie Devine when he scored at Marine
However, amid the giant killings, late goals, penalty shootouts and for some the sheer relief of avoiding a banana skin, there were unrestrained celebrations on and off the pitch.
At Marine, a crowd gathered to see the Tottenham Hotspur players arrive before kick-off.
On the pitch, Spurs players hugged youngster, Alfie Devine, 16, after he scored his first goal for the club in a 5-0 victory.
Chelsea were relieved to put four goals past Morecambe after a difficult few weeks
Crawley’s Nick Tsaroulla and Chorley’s Connor Hall were mobbed after they scored unlikely goals during their sides’ heroic wins.
Arsenal players enjoyed a quick embrace after Emile Smith Rowe opened the scoring against Newcastle in injury time, and Chelsea’s stars got up close and personal as they returned to winning ways against Morecambe.
It is not believed there is an immediate threat to football, but the scenes make uncomfortable viewing for mnisters argiung that the continuation of the game does more good than harm.
Former FA chairman and respected figure within the game, David Bernstein, reiterated his concern over football’s continuation.
Emile Smith Rowe scored in extra time against Newcastle United in Arsenal’s win
‘The pictures of players celebrating and hugging on the pitch in these unique circumstances undercut the message of social distancing, which is extremely dangerous,’ he told the Telegraph. ‘That adds to the reasons why I believe that football should be suspended.’
Meanwhile, Watford striker Troy Deeney has claimed that footballers can’t stop breaking new Covid rules because it is in their ‘nature’ to hug their team-mates during goal celebrations, and the Watford striker called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to shut down the sport.
‘Unless the government or governing bodies step in and say, “you cannot do this, you cannot do that”, then it goes back to what’s morally right,’ Deeney told talkSPORT.
Troy Deeney (left) has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) to shut down football
‘You can’t stop people from going away [on holiday], you can’t stop people from playing football and naturally going to hug your team-mate who assisted you – it’s something we’ve done for years.
‘Ultimately, it’s up to the powers that be to shut football down, and it doesn’t matter if it carries on into June and July like last year, or we talk about it week after week as people make mistakes.’
Pep Guardiola, the Manchester City manager, insisted that his club would follow the enhanced protocols but defended players hugging on the grounds that all involved had been tested.
He said: ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen but a guy scores a goal and has the joy to celebrate, I don’t know if he’s going to think, ‘I can’t hug my team-mates for two or three seconds.’
Last week the Premier League recorded 40 Covid cases and the EFL a further 112, in its first full round of testing since November.
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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