Premier League referees to remind players over socially-distant celebrations

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor urged players to adhere to distancing rules even when celebrating goals last week; Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta question the guidance, insisting in the heat of the moment it will be difficult for players to contain their excitement

Manchester City turned on the style in the first half with three goals
Image: Players will reminded to keep socially distant during goal celebrations

Premier League referees will be told to remind players of the need to maintain social distancing as much as possible during games, and when celebrating goals.

Sky Sports News has confirmed reports in The Times that the Premier League and PGMOL is writing to match officials this week, telling them to specifically discuss with captains and coaches what is expected of them in the game.

It will happen during the pre-match captain's brief - a meeting that occurs before every game, where all practical matters around the game are discussed (such as whether teams will take the knee and whether there is a minute's silence before the game).

It comes as league officials become increasingly concerned that breaches of coronavirus protocols and a lack of social distancing - particularly when celebrating goals - leaves football open to criticism, and vulnerable to a possible change in Government policy, where the game could be halted.

This latest change follows new protocols laid out by the Premier League last week, that included a ban on players and managers shaking hands, hugging or swapping shirts.

The Premier League has not discussed the possibility of a circuit break for the season despite the growing number of positive cases.

Five matches have been called off because of coronavirus cases this season after Tottenham's scheduled trip to face Aston Villa was postponed on Monday after an outbreak in the Villa squad.

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Guardiola, Arteta question new celebration guidance

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Pep Guardiola says it will be hard to restrict players' celebrations

Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta have warned that players will find it difficult to control their emotions to follow guidance on celebrating goals.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor last week called on players to tone down their celebrations, to adhere to a set of reinforced coronavirus protocols that emphasised the need to maintain a safe distance, and avoid handshakes and shirt-swapping.

"I read them, the new protocols," Guardiola said. "We are going to follow them. But when one guy scores a goal, I don't know if they can be controlled and not celebrate it.

"All of us [involved on match days] are tested negative, every two days. I don't know what is going to happen - but one guy scores a goal, the joy to celebrate it, I don't know if he is going to think, 'I cannot hug my mate for two, three seconds'.

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"One guy is isolated and the group has to continue. So, I don't know. We follow what the people say at the club, the Premier League. We follow the rules. That is what it is.

"Aston Villa had 10 players isolated plus the manager. So, I don't know."

Arteta, speaking ahead of Arsenal's clash with Crystal Palace on Thursday, also believes players will not be focused on distancing rules in the intensity of matches.

"To control the emotions when you're going 200mph in a game full of things happening around you is very difficult to control," Arteta said.

"We ask in our players, in corners for example, to be man-marking people and pushing people around, and then we cannot fist-bump anybody or say hello to anybody.

"It gets a little controversial and difficult to understand."

EFL warns rule-breakers football risks Government's wrath

Football will come under extreme Government pressure to stop if clubs "continue to flout the rules" on limiting the spread of coronavirus, EFL chief executive Trevor Birch has warned.

Elite sport has been allowed to continue despite the country being placed in a new national lockdown designed to slow down the rate of Covid-19 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.

"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.

Crystal Palace's Eberechi Eze (left) watches the match from the stands during the Emirates FA Cup third round match at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, London.
Image: Eberechi Eze visited his former club QPR for their FA Cup match on Saturday

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 former player, Eberechi Eze, to attend their tie against Fulham, while Crawley's exuberant celebrations of their upset win over Leeds also went against rules around social distancing.

"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.

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