It's time to ban footballers for breaching Covid-19 regulations 11 months ago

It's time to ban footballers for breaching Covid-19 regulations

Footballers continue to flout Covid-19 rules. Is it time to ban them?

Christmas and New Year has been a difficult time for many of us. Whereas in previous years we would have been surrounded by family and friends, celebrating and eating to our heart's content, the end of 2020 for a lot of people was one of sacrifice, staying away from those they care about so as to ensure they don't add to the unrelenting rise in coronavirus cases.

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This reality is one that many of us have lived throughout the majority of the past nine months. As a result, it is naturally rather annoying to see people knowingly flout these rules. It is even more annoying to them see them line out for Premier League teams.

In the past few days, these are the Premier League footballers who were investigated for breaching Covid-19 guidelines: Giovani Lo Celso, Erik Lamela, Sergio Reguilon, Manuel Lanzini, Luka Milivojevic, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Benjamin Mendy.

Out of that seven, close to half featured in some way over the weekend. Milivojevic captained Crystal Palace, while Reguilon and Mendy were on the bench for Spurs and Manchester City respectively.

All clubs involved - Spurs, West Ham, Palace, Fulham and City - have either not commented on the incidents officially or have stated that they would be dealt with "internally".

As more incidents of this kind emerge, the anger from football fans has grown, and only served to illustrate the perceived gap in reality for the wealthy in this country and everyone else.

So how do you prevent footballers from breaching Covid-19 rules? It's simple: ban them.

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In the past week we have seen the kind of perceived infringements that football authorities are willing to ban players over.

Atletico Madrid and England right-back Kieran Trippier was handed (a now temporarily lifted) 10-match ban for telling a friend of his move to Madrid. That friend then placed a bet and took home their winnings.

In Manchester, Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani was banned for three matches, given a £100,000 fine and ordered to undergo educational classes after sending what was deemed a racially insensitive to a compatriot.

Much has been spoken about both incidents - and I don't need to add to what has been said - but both go to prove that authorities are clearly willing to hand out bans and fines, so why not hand them out for the most serious of offences?

The greatest threat to us right now is Covid-19. That is abundantly clear. It has shut down our societies for the best part of nine months, and left us pining for things we previously wouldn't have thought twice about.

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It is a case of life and death. That's why so many of us have resisted the temptation to see family, and it's specifically why footballers who flout these regulations must be severely punished with appropriate bans.

This is not like having a bet. It is not like taking your shirt off after celebrating a goal. What these players are doing is endangering people's lives; their mistakes are closer to drink driving and should be treated as such.

To see footballers take to the pitch after knowingly putting lives in danger is a slap in the face to the rest of society. To hear their manager then say that he is disappointed, and that the club will deal with the matter while simultaneously selecting that person to play is a double-whammy.

This is not because they are role models - though they undoubtedly hold that position for many - but because every infraction that goes unpunished further erodes the public's confidence in lockdown measures, and increases the grey area of what people feel is acceptable. 'If they can do it....'

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The issue of these breaches is also incredibly counter-productive for players, especially in a world where they can still carry out their jobs in about as normal a setting as can be expected right now.

If it keeps happening, whilst the new strain of Covid-19 is so prevalent and potent, it could jeopardise the football calendar and continuation of the Premier League - a financial disaster for football clubs in terms of TV revenue, and something which could once again see players forced to take wage cuts. The lack of any sight of the bigger picture here, from all involved, is almost as shocking as the breaches themselves.

Clubs have proven that, for the most part, they will always protect their assets. This is often understandable; hyperbole regularly surrounds every move they make - but in a situation like this the clubs involved have proven that they are either ill-equipped or not inclined to hand out appropriate punishment.

Punishments are designed to bring an end to unacceptable behaviour, and the time has come for the FA or the Premier League to step in and show that footballers - like the rest of us - are not above the law.

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