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Covid-19 and football: Should players be hugging?

Covid-19 and football: Should players be hugging? Covid-19 and football: Should players be hugging?

Premier league graphicUpdated guidelines have been issued by the Premier League

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola believes stopping players celebrating goals could prove "difficult" - but insists his side will follow new Premier League guidelines aimed at limiting contact.

It comes after footballers were reminded this week that "handshakes, high fives and hugs must be avoided" with extra scrutiny on every aspect of life under lockdown in a coronavirus pandemic.

"It is difficult. I don't know if we will be able to do it," Guardiola said, while stressing that players are frequently tested.

"We are going to do it, we are going to respect the protocols. But the moment you score a goal and one guy runs and the others don't go to celebrate with him, it is weird and uncomfortable."

Guardiola's side beat Brighton 1-0 on Wednesday and afterwards the Spaniard lamented not being able to shake the hand of his counterpart, Seagulls boss Graham Potter.

Potter agreed players might find it hard to change their habits but said he believed the seriousness of the situation would see them adapt.

"It is difficult but it should be manageable," he said.

BBC Sport looks at the arguments on both sides of this debate.

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    'Stand by for lots more controversy' - analysis

    BBC sports editor Dan Roan

    Regardless of how often players are tested, at a time when hospitals are overwhelmed and the government is desperate to persuade people to respect social distancing, it is easy to see why the scenes of players flouting football's rules on unnecessary contact when celebrating is unhelpful.

    With most of us unable to hug our relatives, and so much in life and work shut down, the onus is naturally on those in elite sport to be seen to set the right example, follow what appear to be simple rules devised by top medics to minimise risk, and justify the privilege they enjoy in being allowed to carry on.

    Others however, fear it is unfair and contradictory to ask players to provide entertainment, while at the same time suppressing their natural instincts. Some believe it is a tactic by politicians to divert from other issues, and robs the game of much-needed joy.

    Ministers are not minded to suspend elite sport again at this stage. They recognise it is a welcome distraction for many, does not drive transmission in the community, and that protocols and testing have largely been a success. Another shutdown would be financially devastating for the sport industry.

    But after players breached restrictions while off-duty over the festive period, and with the prospect of the national lockdown being tightened, the sports minister has now issued his sternest warning to date, and football's authorities are under pressure to punish transgressions, as has already been seen sports such as rugby league for instance.

    Sadly, every goal celebration will now be scrutinised, and it will be fascinating to see what is deemed to be excessive, and whether the threat of fines changes behaviour. Stand by for lots more controversy.

    Case for

    Since it restarted after the first lockdown early last year, football has shown it can adapt and operate to 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 English Football League (EFL) tested for coronavirus twice a week.

    And, given the outside nature of the sport, the risk of transmission of the virus is lower.

    In the updated guidelines issued by the Premier League this week, players were reminded of the importance of good hygiene and wearing face 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 policed? Who could deny Sheffield United a little celebration after they secured their first win of the Premier League season on Tuesday night? Or when Manchester United went top of the table for the first time since the Sir Alex Ferguson era?

    BBC football reporter Simon Stone says: "I have been lucky enough to go to a lot of games since Project Restart.

    "Obviously there are no fans but aside from that and social distancing among substitutes and coaching staff, on the pitch, everything is more or less the same.

    "Players argue with referees, managers moan at fourth officials, players dive, they deliberately foul and obstruct each other, they make hard tackles and try to get an edge that can make a difference. I would say they are 'in the zone' of being an athlete."

    Sheffield United (left), Manchester United (centre) and Everton (right) players celebrate after scoringThe Premier League has reiterated that protocols include a ban on players shaking hands or hugging

    Case against

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

    For almost a year, we have been unable to hug loved ones and many people have not left their home in months, while parents are having to take on the added pressures of home-schooling their children.

    So when they are seeing players embracing each other after goals, singing their hearts out in changing rooms, arms flung around shoulders, it is, for some, a kick in the teeth.

    England's Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, is among those who have called for players to show restraint when celebrating.

    When asked whether players should be hugging after a goal, he told LBC Radio on Wednesday: "Every close human contact that is avoidable should be avoided because one in three of us will get the infection and have no symptoms at all."

    But it's not just on-the-field breaches or those within the football environment which are causing issues. Over the festive period, there were several breaches of coronavirus protocols with players from various clubs attending or hosting parties.

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

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    Speaking after Manchester United's win over Burnley on Tuesday, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: "It's an emotional game. We have to understand the players when they celebrate."

    However, he did concede that they "understand the concern nowadays for a bit of less emotions and less hugging".

    Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson said: "People have ingrained habits when a goal is scored. The emotion and joy of that moment, there is a risk players will still run to each other. I don't know what managers and coaches can do more than hammer home the messages and protocols."

    "We want to adhere as closely as we can because we understand the seriousness of it," Brighton's Graham Potter said.

    "We will do our best. Unfortunately sometimes the brain is a sub-conscious one and you are just there in the moment. You are not thinking. It is an instinctive reaction but clearly we want to reduce that because we respect why the protocols are there, why the rules are there and we want to do our best with that."

    Although Manchester City's Pep Guardiola felt ignoring instinct could prove difficult for players, he stressed Premier League clubs were working hard to minimise risk.

    "We are tested maybe five or six times in the last 10 days. Everyone is negative. We are outdoors where the virus is less aggressive."

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    To use comments you will need to have JavaScript enabled. 1271 commentsShowLatestOldestHighest RatedMost Replied
  • G

    As a fan of Newcastle United this question is totally hypothetical.4616
  • M

    "As a fan of Newcastle United this question is totally hypothetical."mountain man replied: As a fellow NUFC fan I have just posted something similar!564
  • More replies (19)
  • D

    Hugging is the least of my concerns, I am more concerned about the disgusting language being used which is now easy to hear through the TV, also disrespect to referees and constant diving,playacting and cheating in the game. They are poor role-models for anyone.41177
  • 1

    "Hugging is the least of my concerns, I am more concerned about the disgusting language being used which is now easy to hear through the TV, also disrespect to referees and constant diving,playacting and cheating in the game. They are poor role-models for anyone."147break replied: Agreed. They should follow rugby's example where an International player has just been banned for 2 weeks for swearing at a referee. Such discipline will then also reflect into the crowd - hence no major trouble at rugby games.27728
  • More replies (71)
  • W

    I do find it hilarious that throughout the game they are running into each other, hugging one another then immediately afterwards the TV companies line them up two meters apart for the interviews.2786
  • B

    "I do find it hilarious that throughout the game they are running into each other, hugging one another then immediately afterwards the TV companies line them up two meters apart for the interviews."BASSPLA replied: That's to protect the interviewer who take the rules seriously5042
  • More replies (4)
  • D

    This article and the question it poses are ridiculous. They are also symptomatic of the way football at the top level views itself. They think that they are a class above and different from us - refer to the Celtic jaunt to Dubai.
    Observe the same rules as everyone else you muppets: and for God's sake Stone, stop pandering to the clubs and players.24431
  • T

    "This article and the question it poses are ridiculous. They are also symptomatic of the way football at the top level views itself. They think that they are a class above and different from us - refer to the Celtic jaunt to Dubai.Observe the same rules as everyone else you muppets: and for God's sake Stone, stop pandering to the clubs and players."TheHitMan replied: I don't agree with the trips to Dubai - I can't believe the clubs actually went ahead with it. But at the time no laws were broken so what can you do? if you have the resources then you could have booked the next flight out after the Celtic team. Point being - they're not living under different rules, it's just the rules were a joke in the first place. Still, I agree it was stupid to fly there.765
  • More replies (13)
  • D

    If we aren't allowed to meet our family members it does seem a bit much to watch a bunch of overpaid prima donnas hugging each other because one of them succesfully conned a referee into giving them a penalty.22431
  • C

    "If we aren't allowed to meet our family members it does seem a bit much to watch a bunch of overpaid prima donnas hugging each other because one of them succesfully conned a referee into giving them a penalty."Champ20ns replied: ^^ this.

    There's clearly alot of people here who love footballers more than their own family.6622
  • More replies (9)
  • J

    Having to play every three days, not being able to hug and kiss, breaking COVID rules but then apologising when caught out ...........the life of a footballer is really tough at the moment15512
  • R

    "Having to play every three days, not being able to hug and kiss, breaking COVID rules but then apologising when caught out ...........the life of a footballer is really tough at the moment"RichMurphy replied: What chance of spending your paltry £150000 a week755
  • More replies (4)
  • W

    When our sport resumed, it was under protocols that stopped any unnecessary contact. No handshakes after game, no changing facilities at the game, no travelling.

    Would this be one rule for the elite, and one for us plebs. Seems to be a lot of that around.13810
  • A

    "When our sport resumed, it was under protocols that stopped any unnecessary contact. No handshakes after game, no changing facilities at the game, no travelling.Would this be one rule for the elite, and one for us plebs. Seems to be a lot of that around."A sort of greeny bluey thing replied: Hugging is natural it's good that men do it more and the players are setting a good example, agree the virus makes it difficult but they are sending a great statement men need to hug too especially in these difficult times I think it means even more.18114
  • More replies (5)
  • R

    When you consider that many of the Population miss hugging their Children / Grandchildren etc then I can see why people get upset over this. Footballers have never bothered with peoples opinions about how they dive and cheat so they will not be bothered by peoples opinions on this either. They live in their own little world13412
  • B

    "When you consider that many of the Population miss hugging their Children / Grandchildren etc then I can see why people get upset over this. Footballers have never bothered with peoples opinions about how they dive and cheat so they will not be bothered by peoples opinions on this either. They live in their own little world"Bobbis replied: Granted and I can agree
    However
    They're allowed to do w.e they want with corners, with pushing and pulling, basically hugging there (apparently not allowed but rarely punished). Physical contact tackles are allowed, but this is not?
    It doesn't all add up

    Off pitch activity needs improving though, any breaches should be hit with suspensions on pitch.751
  • More replies (3)
  • H

    Arteta made a valid point when asked about this. If you're going to curb celebrating, might as well curb corners, free kicks, man marking...
    Testing occurs rigourously to ensure elite football can take still take place. This argument feels like a lot of well intended but misguided bluster.

    I am, I'd like to add, in no way defending the off field antics of some idiot players & their gatherings.13522
  • A

    "Arteta made a valid point when asked about this. If you're going to curb celebrating, might as well curb corners, free kicks, man marking...Testing occurs rigourously to ensure elite football can take still take place. This argument feels like a lot of well intended but misguided bluster.I am, I'd like to add, in no way defending the off field antics of some idiot players & their gatherings."andrew meighan replied: You've basically just defended it4382
  • More replies (9)
  • T

    when football first came back players barely spat, gradually theyre let their standards drop to as it was before, then players have parties and think saying sorry makes it all OK. Ban them for 6 months no wages selfish morons10613
  • S

    "when football first came back players barely spat, gradually theyre let their standards drop to as it was before, then players have parties and think saying sorry makes it all OK. Ban them for 6 months no wages selfish morons"SammyValenteno replied: Players are in a work bubble with colleagues. As such, there is no issue.1151
  • More replies (14)
  • A

    Why has ejecting saliva forcibly from one's mouth not been penalised, its a complete joke, fine them and ban them, and/or 6 weeks unpaid work in Covid Ward the 4th officail should pick it up and could use VAR as well. :-)9318
  • W

    "Why has ejecting saliva forcibly from one's mouth not been penalised, its a complete joke, fine them and ban them, and/or 6 weeks unpaid work in Covid Ward the 4th officail should pick it up and could use VAR as well. :-)"Wendi replied: Totally agree with you.... no need for spitting!5912
  • More replies (14)
  • T

    It's emotional? So is going to a funeral.8813
  • F

    "It's emotional? So is going to a funeral."fairybry replied: I wish I could like this comment so many more times.118
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  • V

    I don't really care if they hug when they score, it's the blatant flouting of the rules off the pitch because they think they're above the rest of society that gets my goat612
  • P

    "I don't really care if they hug when they score, it's the blatant flouting of the rules off the pitch because they think they're above the rest of society that gets my goat"pragueimp replied: They are not the only ones flouting the rules.
    They are just more high profile than most who flout them.58
  • More replies (2)
  • W

    How on earth can it matter how the players celebrate when they're playing a contact sport?6614
  • K

    "How on earth can it matter how the players celebrate when they're playing a contact sport?"Knowall replied: Because people are dying Wayne, and they are responsible...time to end the season . They are responsible as is every selfish idiot not following our rules.3448
  • More replies (6)
  • C

    Long story short; footballers can do whatever they want and do not live with the same rules as the rest of us.5711
  • R

    "Long story short; footballers can do whatever they want and do not live with the same rules as the rest of us."Ratters - DCFC replied: Neither do alot of the wealthy and famous, get over it people.725
  • More replies (1)
  • D

    Fair play to West Brom this season who are taking COVID restrictions very seriously. They are staying 6 feet away from the opposition this season and for extra safety, they are staying away from the opponents’ penalty area too. Stay safe, Baggies.450
  • M

    "Fair play to West Brom this season who are taking COVID restrictions very seriously. They are staying 6 feet away from the opposition this season and for extra safety, they are staying away from the opponents’ penalty area too. Stay safe, Baggies."Mazdaman replied: That's brilliant darktowers. Your comment brightened the gloom of seeing the ever-worsening figures.120
  • More replies (2)
  • R

    Who cares.They break and flout every other rule.427
  • B

    "Who cares.They break and flout every other rule."bobbob replied: Well said that man ! 👍105
  • More replies (1)
  • S

    I have no idea why elite sport is allowed to continue. There are far too many outbreaks, mostly in football.7945
  • A

    "I have no idea why elite sport is allowed to continue. There are far too many outbreaks, mostly in football."AndyB_MOT replied: I'm pretty sure "most" outbreaks aren't because of football....498
  • More replies (7)
  • S

    I couldn't care less.6128
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  • 1

    I for one and glad that the lack of crowds has also seen a decrease in those stupid goal celebrations (ie riupping off shirts; kicking the corner flag; doing a sill dance).

    Yes celebrating a goal might have to stop for a bit but we all have to change our ways during this crisis. Some say it's spontaneous but if so then how many other people do such things when they do something well at work ?3711
  • L

    "I for one and glad that the lack of crowds has also seen a decrease in those stupid goal celebrations (ie riupping off shirts; kicking the corner flag; doing a sill dance).Yes celebrating a goal might have to stop for a bit but we all have to change our ways during this crisis. Some say it's spontaneous but if so then how many other people do such things when they do something well at work ?"Les Cigales replied: Totally agree :)
    Don't see the postman taking his shirt off when he delivers a letter, the shop assisytant doesn't lean across and kiss me when she serves me.
    A fist or elbow bump should be sufficient acknowledgement that the player has done what he is paid to do5412
  • More replies (7)More commentsBack to top

    Original source : https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/55646757

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