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If the 2020/21 Premier League is to continue and has any chance of surviving the surge in coronavirus cases amid what is now the UK’s third national lockdown, players must behave better and better and adhere to further restrictions. strict at all times.
But there is more than that because players have a duty to take care of the rest of the country, whether they choose it or not, and they must set an example in that regard as well.
The Premier League is far from immune to the crisis hitting the UK at an even more alarming level than before and the players and club staff must take responsibility for their actions.
Four Premier League matches have had to be postponed since the beginning of December due to outbreaks at a handful of clubs, three of them since December 28.
Those games will have to be reorganized into an already congested match schedule that is still making up for last season’s delays and late start to this one. Subsequent postponements will only make the crisis worse, but they will be a necessary measure if cases start to spiral out of control.
Due to regular testing to be aware of possible outbreaks and the nature of work in professional sports, Premier League footballers more than most may feel an air of relative normality in their lives. It’s not how it should be, but they continue to train every day, interact with colleagues, and play games, while millions of people across the country have worked from home since March, with limited or no real human interaction outside of their home. .
But that doesn’t mean that players can ignore the guidelines when it comes to rules.
Footballers can feel invincible. As elite athletes with an advanced level of fitness and health, they are the least vulnerable group to the worst impact of the virus and many of the players who have tested positive have been asymptomatic or have only suffered a brief and mild illness.
However, potentially carrying and spreading it, especially to the most vulnerable members of your family or community, is a risk that is even more real as a result of the more dangerous new strain.
The latest testing figures released by the Premier League have confirmed that 40 new positive cases were discovered in two rounds of testing between December 28 and January 3, more than double the previous week, which in itself was a new record of 18.
Clubs can also do more to discourage any breaches of the rules.
Tottenham is believed to have fined Giovani Lo Celso, Erik Lamela and Sergio Reguilon for their illegal gathering on Christmas Day, which also included West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini, with a picture seen on social media with 15 adults in total and several young children.
Fulham launched an internal investigation when Aleksandar Mitrovic was seen breaking the rules at a New Year’s Eve party also attended by Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojveic. But Milivojevic was selected to play two days later, and Eagles coach Roy Hodgson played down the criticism by suggesting that fans are more concerned with winning soccer games.
Similarly, Manchester City were unhappy with Benjamin Mendy’s behavior when he also broke the rules on New Years Eve, only for Pep Guardiola to defend the player speculating that his actions were perhaps no worse than ‘many’ from the rest of the population.
But players and staff need not only protect themselves and their families, there is a mandatory level of social responsibility when it comes to setting an example for everyone else.
Whether they like it or not, Premier League footballers are highly visible public role models for people of all ages and one of the complaints if they are seen breaking the rules with impunity is that they license and legitimize other people to trespass. limits. also, lengthening the crisis.
“It produces a ‘Dominic Cummings’ effect. ‘Yes [footballers] I can relax, cuddle and have fun, me too. ‘ The penalty for non-compliance should be much higher, ”former FA president David Bernstein told a national newspaper earlier this week.
They’ve stepped up before, donating salaries as part of the #PlayersTogether movement during the first lockdown last spring. Now, they must make sure they follow the rules. Not only does the season depend on it, but its behavior could indirectly influence how quickly the country can free itself from the clutches of the worst peacetime crisis in a century.