PFA tells players they are putting football at risk by breaking Covid rules

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PFA tells players they are putting football at risk by breaking Covid rules

Footballers have been warned by their own union that breaking Covid rules at this 'critical stage of the pandemic' will be hugely damaging for the

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Footballers have been warned by their own union that breaking Covid rules at this ‘critical stage of the pandemic’ will be hugely damaging for the game.

The PFA has spoken out after it emerged a shutdown of sport was discussed as part of the nation’s new lockdown following revelations that top players were flouting the Covid restrictions all other citizens are expected to follow.

Senior figures in the game, public health experts and a broadcaster that screens top flight football have already condemned the actions of players who have ignored rules.

The PFA has said players breaking Covid rules may behugely damaging for the game. The statement comes as Gordon Taylor, the union's chief executive, agreed to fund twice-weekly Covid tests for the 72 clubs in the EFL to help stem the spread of the virus in the game

The PFA has said players breaking Covid rules may behugely damaging for the game. The statement comes as Gordon Taylor, the union’s chief executive, agreed to fund twice-weekly Covid tests for the 72 clubs in the EFL to help stem the spread of the virus in the game

Football, among other sports, has been allowed to continue despite the nationwide lockdown that curtails the activities of most people, as the government tries to halt an alarming rise in Covid infections and deaths fuelled by a new, highly contagious variant of the virus. 

However, high profile players from five Premier League clubs, including Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, provoked fury across the country when they ignored strict Covid rules and attended and organised parties during the festive season.

Players in the Women’s Super League have also been criticised after three of Arsenal first-team players travelled to Dubai during the WSL’s winter break, after London moved into Tier 4 restrictions. One of them has since tested positive for Covid.

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

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

‘In a close-knit football environment, the ramifications of any rule breaches are potentially hugely damaging for fellow players, clubs and the game as a whole,’ the PFA said in a statement.

‘It is a testament to the hard work of everyone involved that the vast majority of matches have gone ahead as scheduled and the risks to players, staff and their families have been well managed and kept to a minimum.’

Forty players and staff tested positive for the virus in the latest rounds of Premier League testing this week – more than double the week before – three games have been called off in the top tier and more than 50 matches have been postponed in the EFL with fears of more to come in the FA Cup third-round this weekend.

Manchester City left back Benjamin Mendy hosted a New Year's Eve party at his mansion

Pep Guardiola's decision to back Benjamin Mendy after he broke Covid rules angered fans

 Pep Guardiola’s decision to back Benjamin Mendy after he broke Covid rules angered fans

Women’s football, which restarts on Saturday, also 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.

Both clubs have requested postponements.

The PFA called on players to set ‘the right example to millions of fans and young people’.

‘Your support has been a major factor in getting football up and running again, and we commend your collective efforts so far,’ the union added in its statement.

Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic (left) was seen breaking Covid rules at a New Year’s Eve party with Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic (right)

Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic (left) was seen breaking Covid rules at a New Year’s Eve party with Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic (right)

‘We are now entering another critical stage of the pandemic. Although prospects are brighter due to the vaccine’s imminent rollout, players must continue to take the lead and act responsibly and professionally.’

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.

‘Between now and the end of the season, we ask that you continue to take personal responsibility and follow the lockdown rules, without exception.’ 

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. The players have issued apologies.

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. 

Despite Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden meeting with representatives of the Premier League, Football Association and English Football League on Monday, the three governing bodies have refused to take responsibility for the rule breaches, leaving it to the clubs to discipline their own players.

That approach has been described as ‘weak management’ by Professor Keith Neal, an expert in public health at the University of Nottingham, who told Sportsmail yesterday that offenders should be banned for six weeks if they flout government Covid guidelines.

And former FA chairman David Bernstein has said that he believes football should now be suspended since players are setting such a poor example.

Meanwhile, a senior figure within one of the Premier League’s television rights holders, which includes Sky, BT Sport, Amazon Prime and the BBC domestically, has hit out at the breach of Covid rules by footballers.

Shutting down sport was considered as part of Boris Johnson's latest lockdown

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has warned English football's leaders over the game's issues

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

The unnamed individual told the Press Association: ‘Our view is that some of the behaviour has been disgusting and unacceptable.’ 

The Premier League and the EFL have both reminded clubs of the importance of following Covid protocols and in the Championship, Leagues One and Two the rules have been tightened to restrict indoor activity and reduce the risk of transmission during travel to games.

The Premier League has introduced twice weekly testing and the EFL announced on Wednesday that the 72 Football League clubs would start bi-weekly testing using lateral flow devices, which are less accurate but more affordable than the PCR tests used in the top tier.

The PFA’s chief executive, Gordon Taylor, said yesterday that the union will fund the scheme.  

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