With another round of international matches looming in the football calendar, questions about players being released to represent their countries remain a headache for the Premier League.
Under new guidelines announced last week, several Premier League footballers returning from international duty face 10 days in “bespoke quarantine facilities” — a move that has irked Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.
The guidelines say that fully-vaccinated players returning to the UK from “red list” countries — including Brazil and Argentina — will be allowed out of their quarantine facilities once a day to train or play in matches.
“They go for 10-12 days with their national teams, and then they go another 10 days away from their families into quarantine,” he told reporters last week. “That’s 22 days, and two weeks later there’s the next international break. It doesn’t sound to me like a real solution.”
Klopp went on to add: “We take people for three weeks out of normal life for actually no real reason because we take care of our players when they’re here and with their families.
“They don’t do anything else. They go home, come to training and go home … The Premier League has to fight for our players.”
The guidelines for Premier League players are different compared to members of the public returning from red list countries, who have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days after arriving in England.
The exemption for players is also subject to strict protocols and a code of conduct to be agreed with clubs, the Football Association (FA) and Public Health England.
From Monday, the UK government amended its travel rules, in part by scrapping its green and amber lists of countries. More than 50 countries remain on the red list.
The current international break, during which teams will compete in the final stages of the UEFA Nations League and qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, runs from October 4-14; Premier League fixtures start again on October 16.
“We have worked closely with football authorities to achieve an outcome that balances the interests of both club and country while maintaining the highest levels of public health and safety,” a UK government spokesperson said in relation to the exemption for players on international duty.
“Our best defence against the virus is vaccination and these new measures will allow fully vaccinated players to fulfill their international duties in the safest, most practical way possible, while allowing them to train and play with their clubs as early as possible upon their return.”
Alongside the FA and FIFA, the Premier League tried to find a solution to shorten players’ quarantine period but accepted the UK health authorities’ desire to maintain a 10-day quarantine. The protocols will be reviewed by the governing bodies over the course of this international window.
“FIFA welcomes the UK government`s decision to allow fully vaccinated players the opportunity to represent their countries in the upcoming qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup and return from a red-list country to bespoke quarantine conditions,” said a statement from football’s governing body.
“We have worked closely with the UK government, Football Association and Premier League to find a reasonable solution, in the interests of everyone, and we believe this is a much more desirable solution to the situation that players faced in September.”
The statement added: “We acknowledge this decision does not help every player 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.”
Previously, Premier League clubs have decided not to release players for international matches in red-list countries.
Then in September, there were chaotic scenes as the World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina was suspended minutes after kickoff when four Argentinian players were accused of breaking Covid travel protocols.
Brazilian health officials marched onto the pitch in São Paulo and claimed that the players in question had made false statement upon arriving in Brazil, omitting that they had been in the UK in the past 14 days.
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