FIFA urges players to get vaccinated, EPL lags on take-up

The British government last week agreed to ease strict quarantine requirements to allow fully vaccinated players to train and feature in matches on their return to England from red-list countries, which includes all of South America.

FIFA said it encouraged COVID-19 vaccinations and endorsed the WHO’s position: safe, fair, and equitable access was critical in all countries.   -  REUTERS

The first clear statement of its kind from world football's governing body came as players were flying to countries for men's World Cup qualifiers.

“We encourage COVID-19 vaccinations,” FIFA said, "and endorse the World Health Organization’s position: safe, fair, and equitable access is critical in all countries. Players should not receive priority access to vaccines.”

The British government last week agreed to ease strict quarantine requirements to allow fully vaccinated players to train and feature in matches on their return to England from red-list countries, which includes all of South America.

Those players who don't want to be vaccinated would still be sent to spend 10 days in government hotel quarantine when flying back to England.

“We acknowledge this decision does not help every player," FIFA said, “and we remain committed to further improving the situation for upcoming windows and joining discussions to explain more about the many measures we are putting in place to reduce the risks of COVID transmission into the community as a result of player travel.”

Many Premier League clubs blocked players from going to red-list countries during the international window last month. Players who did go missed games for their clubs as a result.

“We believe this is a much more desirable solution to the situation that players faced in September,” FIFA said.

The British government spoke out against players not getting vaccinated on Sunday. Only seven of the 20 Premier League clubs have more than half of their squads fully vaccinated, according to the most recent data.

“I would just appeal to these people, whether they are footballers, whoever it is ... that the vaccines are working," Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Times Radio. "Help protect yourself and protect those around you. They’ve made a conscious choice (not to be vaccinated). It is disappointing, of course it is. ...

"They are role models in society. People, especially young people, I think will look up to them and they should recognize that and the difference that can make in terms of encouraging others.”

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The most assertive plea for players to get vaccinated has come this weekend from Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp.

“I don’t take the vaccination only to protect me," Klopp said. "I take the vaccination to protect all the people around me.”

Klopp said 99% of the Liverpool squad had been jabbed.

“I explain it a little bit like drink-driving," he said. "We were all probably in a situation where we had a beer or two and thought ‘I can drive’. But this law is not there for protecting me, it is there for protecting all the other people because I am (drunk) and want to drive a car. And we accept that as a law.

"We all know alcohol is bad for our body but we still drink it. With the vaccination we assume it is not good for our body. Most specialists tell us the vaccination is the solution for the situation in this moment.”

England manager Gareth Southgate has urged his players to get vaccinated to avoid missing games if they have to isolate after contracting COVID-19.

“What we do know is that, even with the vaccination, it’s not going to stop people catching it," Southgate said. "So our concern on a broader welfare thing is helping everybody to get through this pandemic and I don’t see another way other than a huge vaccination program frankly.

“I am yet to be advised by those that don’t see it that way what the alternatives are. But from a managing-the-team perspective, our risk because of their age is more about they are going to miss games because they catch it."

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