Footballers behave in a ‘mindless’ way that is ‘an insult to the NHS’ by giving group hugs after scoring goals, senior politicians claim.
Players have been warned to avoid ‘unnecessary contact at all times’, including ‘handshakes and hugs’, in a string of harsh new rules sent to Premier League clubs on Friday.
Ministers have also made it clear that they do not want to see images of footballers ignoring the rules of social disassociation in times of national crisis, and such actions make it more difficult to justify the continuation of elite sport during a national lockdown.
Eight Manchester City players hugged after Phil Foden scored against Brighton last night
So far, few teams have adhered to the edict to avoid hugging, with players from Sheffield United, Manchester United, Everton and Wolves celebrating intensively on Tuesday.
And on Wednesday, Manchester City held a festive scrum that included eight players after Phil Foden scored the only goal in their Brighton win and Fulham harassed Ivan Cavaleiro after equalizing in the 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur.
Before the final scenes, Julian Knight, the chair of the parliamentary committee on culture, media and sports, had seen enough.
“ These people are looked up to, they are role models, and not respecting any kind of social aloofness in that way – in times of national distress – is mindless at best and negligent at worst, ” he said. Telegraph.
The Fulham players came together after their late equalizer at Tottenham Hotspur
Ivan Cavaleiro scored to make it through the game and continue Fulham’s resurgence in the Premier League
The former shadow sports minister, who has family members who work in the NHS, added: ‘These people are putting themselves on the line for us absolutely every day and calling on people to obey the rules. And football players need to listen to them and see that they are in an influential position where they can help the NHS get us through this very difficult time. ‘
And DCMS committee member Clive Efford, a Tottenham Hotspur fan, told the paper the celebrations were an “ insult to NHS staff. ”
“To see millionaire footballers ignore the rules as they are is just absolutely disgusting and undeniable,” he said.
On Tuesday, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder and Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Soljskaer defended their players for making emotional reactions to goals.
The Everton players enjoyed a lavish celebration after scoring in their Wolves win
Manchester City manager Per Guardiola made a similar claim to his team last night. But Efford is not impressed by these arguments.
It’s an idiotic reaction. Because, in fact, if you pull back what they say, they say football should be shut down because whatever you do, you can’t stop this, ” he said before Wednesday’s games.
After City’s victory in the Etihad, Guardiola said: ‘I respect Premier League protocols. I fully understand what they are trying to do. But the moment you score a goal and one guy is running and the others aren’t going to celebrate with him, it’s weird and awkward.
The Sheffield United players hugged after scoring in their first win of the season
MPs Clive Efford (left) and Julian Knight, DCMS committee chair, have spoken out about soccer players hugging after goals during the coronavirus pandemic
‘We’ve been tested maybe five or six times in the last ten days. Everyone is negative. We are outside where the virus is less aggressive. We will follow what the Premier League says, but I don’t know if we will be able to do it. ‘
And Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson, whose team will play at Arsenal tonight, said: “People have deep-rooted habits when a goal is scored. The emotion and joy of that moment, there is a risk that players will still run into each other. I don’t know what managers and coaches can do more than get the messages and protocols. ‘
The Premier League says clubs should investigate and punish ‘individual offenses by relevant persons’.
The guideline adds, “Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action by the league individually against the relevant person, if any, and / or against the club.”
Paul Pogba was harassed by Manchester United teammates when he scored a goal over Burnley
While there are many Covid regulations and are enforced, the provision around cuddling is perhaps the most prominent and is becoming a point of contact for ministers.
A series of urgent meetings have now been set up between the Premier League, captains and managers to address the new Covid protocols – fearing continued non-compliance could lead to government intervention.
Sports Minister Nigel Huddlestone has expressed his position to the football authorities and tweeted on Tuesday: ‘Everyone in the country has had to change the way they interact with people and the ways they work.
Footballers are no exception. Covid-safe guidelines exist for football. Footballers must follow them and football authorities strictly enforce them. ‘
Spurs Harry Kane took care of the celebration with high fives after scoring everywhere
And Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy medical head, has added his voice to the debate, saying footballers should distance themselves socially after scoring a goal.
A string of leading virologists and public health experts have also told Sportsmail that hugging after targets is a risk in terms of transmission of the virus, but also a bad example for the rest of the country at a time when the new variant is spreading rapidly. .
However, Tottenham Hotspur showed that players can keep their distance after scoring. When Harry Kane put his Spurs’ squad 1-0 against Fulham, the skipper managed to celebrate with high fives all over.