Premier League stars who refuse Covid jabs ‘could miss domestic matches under new elite sports rule’


Premier League footballers who refuse Covid vaccinations have been warned they face losing the elite athlete exemption that allows them to skip mandatory 10-day isolation requirements when returning from abroad.

Stars from England’s top-flight division could face the prospect of missing out on domestic matches if they fail to receive a Covid shot, plunging Premier League teams currently crippled by rising cases into further chaos.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries is said to be planning to cut the exception that currently allows unjabbed top athletes to skip 10-day isolation to ensure footballers are treated the same as ordinary citizens, according to The Telegraph.

Under current travel rules, unvaccinated people entering the UK are required by law to self-isolate for 10 days and to take PCR tests on day two and eight after their arrival. 

‘Elite sportspersons’ living in the UK and overseas must still follow normal travel restrictions, but can leave the mandatory self-isolation period early in order to train or compete in top flight competitions.  

Any change would be a blow to English clubs playing in European competitions this season, who could be forced to not select their players in the days after returning from playing matches on the continent.

Premier League bosses are said to be incensed as the suggestion, and will likely argue that the comprehensive testing scheme in place across clubs prove they are already going above and beyond in keeping players, coaches and fans safe.  

Stars from England's top-flight division could face the prospect of missing out on domestic matches if they fail to receive a Covid shot, plunging Premier League teams currently crippled by rising cases into further chaos. [File picture]

Stars from England’s top-flight division could face the prospect of missing out on domestic matches if they fail to receive a Covid shot, plunging Premier League teams currently crippled by rising cases into further chaos. [File picture] 

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Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries (above) is said to be planning to cut the exception that currently allows unjabbed top athletes to skip 10-day isolation to ensure footballers are treated the same as ordinary travellers

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MailOnline understands that Ms Dorries does not plan to change the rules for foreign sportspersons who travel to the UK to compete, which could keep the door open for foreign competitions to be hosted within the UK.

Under current travel rules, unvaccinated people entering the UK are required by law to self-isolate for 10 days and to take PCR tests on day two and eight after their arrival. 

‘Elite sportspersons’ are eligible for exemption to these rules, both for those living within Great Britain and overseas. Top athletes must still abide by normal restrictions, but are allowed to leave self-isolation for both training and competitions. 

MailOnline understands that Ms Dorries does not plan to change the rules for foreign sportspersons who travel to the UK to compete, which could keep the door open for foreign competitions to be hosted within the UK.

Although Ms Dorries’ proposal is said to be in the early stages, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to have the final say on any decision, reports The Telegraph.

Any change could spell chaos for Premier League clubs playing in the Champions League, Europa League or Europa Conference League this season – with away matches requiring travel to play European opposition across the continent.

Last month, the Premier League finally revealed vaccination rates within English football’s top flight is 16%  meaning approximately 1 in 6 footballers have received no Covid jabs at all.

And in December Premier League chief executive Richard Masters called on players to get the jab.

As reported by The Athletic, he wrote to clubs: ‘We have collectively highlighted the importance of vaccination and it has never been more important.

‘This is not only for the obvious benefit of protecting against COVID, but government guidance now dictates that unvaccinated close contacts of positive COVID cases must isolate for 10 days, and there is no exemption or exception to this.

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‘Please strongly encourage those who are not fully vaccinated to become so, and the many who are, to get their booster, which appears to be the only significant layer of protection against the Omicron variant.’ 

In total, 92 per cent of players and staff have received one, two or three doses, yet these figures pale in comparison to those shared by top leagues across Europe.

Under current travel rules, unvaccinated people entering the UK are required by law to self-isolate for 10 days and to take PCR tests on day two and eight after their arrival. 'Elite sportspersons' are eligible for exemption, both for those living within Great Britain and overseas

Under current travel rules, unvaccinated people entering the UK are required by law to self-isolate for 10 days and to take PCR tests on day two and eight after their arrival. ‘Elite sportspersons’ are eligible for exemption, both for those living within Great Britain and overseas

Last month, the Premier League finally revealed vaccination rates within English football's top flight is 16% meaning approximately 1 in 6 footballers have received no Covid jabs at all. Pictured: London's Wembley stadium was used as a temporary vaccine centre in December

Last month, the Premier League finally revealed vaccination rates within English football’s top flight is 16% meaning approximately 1 in 6 footballers have received no Covid jabs at all. Pictured: London’s Wembley stadium was used as a temporary vaccine centre in December 

Germany’s Bundesliga have revealed that 94 per cent of players and staff are vaccinated, while Italy’s Serie A’s vaccination rate is 98 per cent. 

Hosts of teams across England’s top division have been hit by virus outbreaks in recent weeks, resulting in dozens of postponed matches as clubs battle to reduce transmission in the dressing room. 

One government source told the Telegraph: ‘If you want to have special treatment you’ve got to do your bit to keep others healthy and safe. Getting vaccinated isn’t only about your health but others.’ 

Other professional athletes playing cricket, tennis, golf, rugby and more in international competitions will also be affected by any proposed rule change. 

In December, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters (pictured) called on players to get the jab

In December, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters (pictured) called on players to get the jab

Hosts of teams across England's top division have been hit by virus outbreaks in recent weeks, resulting in dozens of postponed matches as clubs battle to reduce transmission in the dressing room. Above: Wolves skipper Conor Coady gives the thumbs up as he receives his booster vaccination

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Hosts of teams across England’s top division have been hit by virus outbreaks in recent weeks, resulting in dozens of postponed matches as clubs battle to reduce transmission in the dressing room. Above: Wolves skipper Conor Coady gives the thumbs up as he receives his booster vaccination

A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: ‘Throughout the pandemic we have put in place measures to allow international sport to continue, while at the same time protecting public health.

‘We have exemptions for domestic and international sportspeople to leave self-isolation for specified events, but only to train or to compete. They must self-isolate at all other times, and must follow strict protocols in the operation of these events.

‘We are committed to international sport continuing and will review the exemptions regime to ensure it is operating effectively and fairly.’

It comes as tennis World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was detained at an immigration facility in Melbourne after his visa was cancelled on Wednesday following scrutiny of the medical exemption he had secured to travel to the first major of the year. 

His lawyers have now alleged that he was in fact granted a vaccine exemption from the Australian government and Tennis Australia to enter the country because he contracted Covid-19 last month. 

In court documents published on Saturday, Djokovic’s lawyers claimed the Serbian recorded a positive test on December 16, and has ‘not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of Covid-19 in the last 72 hours’.  



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