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.
Guardiola, Arteta question new celebration guidance
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’.
“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.”
In the meantime, City’s own problems with Covid-19 have continued as Sergio Aguero was forced to miss Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Birmingham in the FA Cup third round.
The Argentine has been told to self-isolate after it was discovered he is a close contact of someone who has tested positive for the virus. City have already been without eight other players following positive tests at various stages since Christmas Day.
“There are teams with four or five cases and played 10 players from the U23s in the FA Cup. We are four or five, the same situation, and we are here,” Guardiola added.
“Sergio was in contact with one person and must be isolated – that is good – but we were in touch with Sergio as well, and we played.”