Covid-19 and football: Should people be upset by player hugs?

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Updated guidelines have been released by the Premier League

This week, footballers were reminded that “handshakes, high five and hugs should be avoided” with closer scrutiny of all aspects of life under lock and key in a coronavirus pandemic.

BBC Sport examines the arguments on both sides of this debate.

Case for

Since restarting after the first lockdown early last year, football has shown it can adapt and function under the unprecedented circumstances it finds itself in.

Elite footballers are among the most tested people in the country, with those in the Premier League and the English Football League (EFL) being tested for the coronavirus twice a week.

And, given the outdoor nature of the sport, the risk of transmitting the virus is lower.

In the updated guidelines released by the Premier League this week, players were reminded of the importance of good hygiene and wearing masks.

They were also reminded of the importance of social distancing, including during goal celebrations.

But in the spur of the moment, how could this be controlled? Who could deny Sheffield United a little celebration after scoring their first Premier League season win on Tuesday night? Or when Manchester United rose to the top of the league table for the first time since the Sir Alex Ferguson era?

Analysis

BBC Football Journalist Simon Stone

I have been fortunate enough to go to a lot of games since restarting the project.

Obviously there are no fans but other than that and the social distancing between the substitutes and the coaches, on the pitch everything is more or less the same.

The players argue with the refs, the managers moan to the fourth referee, the players dive in, they deliberately foul each other and get in the way, they make tough tackles and try to have an advantage that can make a difference. I would say they are “in the box” to be an athlete.

I understand the debate around celebrations but I don’t think it’s possible that when it comes to scoring a goal, in a high pressure situation – it’s reasonable to expect players to immediately come out of their ” zone, ”suddenly remember what’s going on in the rest of society, then come back to it once the match starts.

Reaction

Speaking after Manchester United’s victory over Burnley, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said, “It’s an emotional game. We need to understand the players when they celebrate. “

However, he admitted that they “understand the concern these days for a little less emotion and less hugging”.

Manager of the Crystal Palace Roy Hodgson said: “People have ingrained habits when a goal is scored. The emotion and joy of this moment, there is a risk that the players always run to each other. I don’t know what managers and coaches can do more than hammer out messages and protocols. ”

Premier League reiterated protocols include banning players from shaking hands or hugging

Case against

Quite simply, we are in a global pandemic. More than 80,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the UK alone, and we are, once again, living in lockdown.

For almost a year we have not been able to hug our loved ones and many people have not left their homes for months as parents take on the added pressure of home schooling their children.

So when they see players kissing after goals, singing their hearts out in the locker room, their arms thrown around their shoulders, it is, for some, a kick in the teeth.

But it’s not just the infractions on the pitch or those in the football environment that cause problems. Over the holiday season, there have been several breaches of coronavirus protocols with players from various clubs attending or hosting parties.

In recent weeks, many clubs have reported coronavirus outbreaks, leading to the postponement of several Premier League matches.

“Expect a lot more controversy” – analysis

BBC Sports Editor Dan Roan

No matter how often gamers are tested, at a time when hospitals are overwhelmed and the government is desperate to persuade people to respect social distancing, it’s easy to see why the scenes of gamblers flouting the rules. football on unnecessary contacts during the celebration are unnecessary.

With most of us unable to embrace our loved ones, and so much in life and work closed, it naturally falls on those who play elite sport to set a good example, to follow what seems to be. simple rules and justify the privilege. they like being able to continue.

Others, however, fear that it is unfair and contradictory to ask players for entertainment, while suppressing their natural instincts. Some believe this is a tactic by politicians to shy away from other issues and robs the game of the much-needed joy.

Ministers are unwilling to suspend elite sport again at this stage. They recognize that it is a welcome distraction for many, does not promote transmission in the community, and that the protocols and tests have been largely successful.

But after players violated restrictions on their rest over the holiday season, and with the prospect of a tightening of the nationwide lockdown, the sports minister has now issued his most severe warning yet, and officials in the football are under pressure.

Unfortunately every goal celebration will now be scrutinized and it will be fascinating to see what is deemed excessive and whether the threat of fines changes behavior. Expect a lot more controversy.

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