Frank Lampard defends Premier League players amid celebration criticism

Frank Lampard has defended players who have gone against coronavirus guidelines by continuing to celebrate in groups and warned the Premier League’s tougher protocols will be difficult to implement.

The league, along with refereeing body PGMOL, wrote to match officials this week urging them to encourage captains and coaches to maintain social distancing among their teams on the field.

Despite the intervention, several teams’ players were seen embracing as they celebrated goals during this week’s top-flight games, and the league are now set to hold talks directly with captains and managers to urge them to stick to the protocols.

But Lampard does not think the issue can be solved by simply telling players to stop celebrating, and has reminded critics they are not immune to the restrictions, as well as the dangers, caused by Covid.

Asked if footballers’ recent behaviour was arrogant, given the sacrifices made by the public, Lampard said: “Footballers are doing everything that everyone else is being asked to do as well. Some people are being asked to work from home – footballers aren’t.

“So they are taking themselves into an environment where they are potentially putting themselves in danger and maybe the family they go home to – a pregnant wife, a grandparent, a parent, a brother or a sister.

“So I think we have to understand that footballers are human and they are being asked to go and do their job.

“If you understand football and understand the passion and instinct that every fan has, they understand it can bring out emotions. To control the emotions I think is a fair ask, but to dictate emotions will probably be very difficult on the pitch.

“We should see if players can control it. I hope they can but this beautiful game that we all love does bring emotions out on the pitch.

“What I want to be really clear about is the players are being asked to come to work and they are doing everything they can to toe the line.”

The Premier League are understood to have stepped up their attempts to ensure players abide by the protocols in a bid to prevent football from being left to criticism, which it is feared could lead to a change in Government policy whereby the league could be halted.

Lampard – whose Chelsea side face Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday, live on Sky Sports­ – admitted the club have asked their players to maintain social distancing during celebrations, and insisted they would “do their best.”

“Yes, we have been told that,” Lampard said. “Players are good lads, they do not want to do the wrong thing.

“In a perfect world we will all walk back to the halfway line and just start again. But it maybe will not quite be the case, and I do not think you can hold players hugely to account unless there is clear flouting of those rules.

“The protocols are in place – they have been hardened recently and I understand why.

“There are areas in our workplace where social distancing is top of the list, but when you are actively playing football on the pitch and there’s a lot of instinct involved, then it’s not always as easy. We need to do our best.”

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