Football plays on through depths of pandemic

By Frankie Gleed

With hospitals at breaking point and the government’s chief medical officer warning that the worst is yet to come, the Premier League and the English Football League continue to play, despite record numbers of daily infections and deaths in England.

The Premier League confirmed that there were 36 new positive cases between 4 and 10 January out of 2,593 players and staff tested —the highest number tested since testing began.

Burnley manager Sean Dyche has called for football players to be one of the first groups to be vaccinated, though he also said: “Let me make it clear, there are people way in front of footballers. I’m not remotely suggesting that should be put in front of the welfare of people who are very vulnerable.” Dyche said he hoped that vaccinated players and their clubs would redistribute money back into the NHS.

The EFL has brought in extra rules and regulations to help combat the rise in cases, as well as mandatory testing that was not being done before. No handshakes, spitting or nose-clearing, maintain social distancing wherever possible, use hand sanitiser and use your own personal water bottle are the new rules for players.

With European football set to continue, all eyes on UEFA to see its response to a rise in infections. After reports of new variants around the globe and travel bans in place, English teams are still set to travel to Germany, Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic and Austria.