EFL chief issues stark warning to clubs who ‘continue to flout coronavirus rules’

The EFL has implemented twice-weekly coronavirus testing


The government will place intense pressure on English football to be suspended if clubs “continue to flout the rules” on limiting the spread of Covid-19, English Football League (EFL) chief executive Trevor Birch has insisted.

Elite sport has been allowed to continue despite the country being placed in a new national lockdown designed to slow down the rate of coronavirus infections in the UK.

However, a number of on and off-field incidents, along with an increase in positive test rates among players, means the professional game is under greater scrutiny from the government and the public than ever before.

Birch says all EFL clubs and their staff must bear this in mind.

READ MORE: The questions facing football as sport presses on amid Covid pandemic

“Throughout the pandemic, football has provided a glimmer of hope for many millions of people affected by restrictions, but we all understand the scrutiny the game remains under and we will come under extreme governmental pressure if we continue to flout the rules,” he said in a letter to clubs.

There were high-profile instances of Covid protocols being breached by EFL clubs over the FA Cup third-round weekend. QPR admitted they should not have allowed their former player Eberechi Eze to attend their tie against Fulham, while Crawley’s exuberant celebrations after their upset win over Leeds also went against rules around social distancing.

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“While football is permitted to continue, the actions of all participants will be clearly under the microscope, whether this be in technical areas, dugouts, or in relation to general behaviour and interaction between players on the pitch and staff off it,” Birch added.

Birch says individual transgressions must be “properly investigated” by the clubs concerned, and warned: “Any failure to do so may result in action taken by the league individually against the relevant person where it is appropriate and/or against the club itself.”

He said now was “not the time for complacency” over the Covid-19 protocols.

From this week, players and staff at EFL clubs will be tested twice a week. The testing is being funded by the Professional Footballers’ Association.

The results from this week’s tests are expected to be announced by the EFL on 19 January.

The Premier League has encountered its own problems with fixtures being postponed due to Covid, while some top-flight players were heavily criticised for attending or hosting gatherings over the Christmas and New Year period.

PA

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