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Premier League clubs fear red-list rules could identify unvaccinated players

·4-min read
Premier League clubs fear red-list rules could identify unvaccinated players - GETTY IMAGES
Premier League clubs fear red-list rules could identify unvaccinated players - GETTY IMAGES

Premier League clubs fear players not fully vaccinated against coronavirus will be outed against their will under government plans to exclude them from an easing of the UK’s red-list rules.

A new row is brewing in football’s club-versus-country ahead of next week’s World Cup qualifiers, with the Government’s proposed solution – which could be announced imminently – having been denounced as “ridiculous” by one of the worst-affected sides.

As revealed by Telegraph Sport, that solution would lift a ban on players training and playing matches for 10 days after returning from international duty in red-list countries but would see them otherwise forced to quarantine in a secured private residence or hotel – with 24-hour security. They would be permitted no guests or visitors other than Public Health England, with meals to be dropped at the door, and would be required to use private, individual transport going to and from training and games.

However, players not doubled-jabbed against Covid-19 would be excluded from any such relaxation of the rules, therefore bringing both the risk of identification and the potential for a repeat of clubs' refusal earlier this month to release individuals for international duty.

A source at one of the affected teams said: “It will begin to identify who’s been jabbed and who’s not. The clubs that may be most angry about it are the clubs, I suspect, who have got the bigger issue.”

One of the worst-impacted sides was actually more angry about the Government’s rejection of a proposal by the Premier League for hotel quarantine to be halved for eligible players.

“The clubs involved in the process think anything longer than five days is no solution at all – it’s as unreasonable as it is unworkable” said a source at that club.

Most teams contacted by Telegraph Sport said they were unlikely to refuse to release double-jabbed players because the Government had solved their key problem – the ban on those players training or playing.

But one warned of a revolt from players themselves, saying: “I can still see that being a major hurdle for these players not being allowed to see their families.

“Clubs will be more relaxed because it allows the players to play.”

At the start of the season, almost two-thirds of Premier League clubs had less than half their squads fully vaccinated - PA
At the start of the season, almost two-thirds of Premier League clubs had less than half their squads fully vaccinated - PA

A failure to strike a deal over the red-list row could witness a repeat of the stand-off between Premier League teams and Fifa over player release for this month’s World Cup qualifiers.

That had seen those teams face being banned from fielding the affected players, a threat that only subsided after the Government agreed to consider relaxing red-list rules.

Even a halving of the quarantine period for players returning from affected countries would not prevent many missing their clubs’ next match after the upcoming international break.

Brazil, Argentina and other countries in the Americas play three matches in that period, the last of which kick-off in the early hours of the morning of Friday, October 15, UK time.

That would deprive many Premier League clubs of some of their best players when they return to action the following afternoon.

A source at one team said talks to avoid this could not begin until the quarantine issue was resolved.

The exclusion of the unvaccinated from any easing of red-list rules would mirror plans by the Premier League to do the same when loosening its own strict Covid-19 protocols.

The world’s richest league wrote to its 20 members last week informing them of proposals to “reward” clubs with high immunisation rates in a bid to boost the low take-up of the jab among players.

As revealed by Telegraph Sport, data collected by the Premier League at the start of the season showed almost two-thirds of clubs had less than half their squads fully vaccinated. That number is thought not to have drastically changed with many players refusing altogether, and some being lead by the spread of conspiracy theories.

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