The Premier League are bringing in stricter COVID-19 regulations with immediate effect and are threatening action against players and clubs who flout the rules.
Coronavirus rates in the UK are currently higher than they were when lockdown was initially ordered back in March 2020, and a number of Premier League managers have called for the top flight to be paused following a surge in cases.
There have been outbreaks at Newcastle, Fulham, Sheffield United, Manchester City and Aston Villa, resulting in three Premier League matches being postponed.
However, a number of high profile players chose to break lockdown rules over the festive period, leading to anger among supporters – many of whom have been unable to see loved ones for months. As a result, the Premier League have reminded clubs and players of their responsibilities, and have introduced a new set of ‘enhanced’ measures.
An email sent to clubs by the Premier League (via the Guardian) read: “It is vital to ensure public, government and stakeholder confidence in the training and matchday protocols that individual transgressions by relevant persons are appropriately investigated and sanctioned by clubs.
“Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action by the league individually against the relevant person, where appropriate (for example, where his or her conduct brings the league into disrepute) and/or against the club (where the relevant person’s conduct constitutes a breach of the training protocol).”
The new regulations would usually be agreed at the next shareholders’ meeting, but given the importance of the situation, they will be introduced immediately.
The new rules include a blanket ban on shirt swapping, warning against shaking hands and hugging, limiting the number of guests permitted in the directors’ box on matchday and doubling down on the rule that substitutes must wear a mask.
Any external workers who are to come in to contact with players must have first returned a negative COVID-19 test, and clubs will face increased scrutiny should they suffer an outbreak.