Referees to urge players to remain socially distant when celebrating goals
Pep Guardiola has warned that players might find this difficult
Have you ever played football? The answer is probably yes, whether at the semi-pro level, Sunday league level or just a casual game of 5 a side with work colleagues. Regardless of the level you play at, everyone will agree that scoring a goal evokes an incomparable feeling. When that ball hits the net, it brings out a feeling of joy that nothing else does. You lose your inhibitions and go wild, you mob your teammates, you hug them. It's the reason people play and watch the sport.
Now imagine being told it is safe enough to play matches - in which players will put in crunching tackles, tussle at corners, go shoulder to shoulder fighting for the ball, and sweat a lot - but it's not safe enough to get too close when you celebrate. Mad, isn't it?
That's exactly what is happening though, as Premier League referees have been told to remind players to remain socially distant where possible, including during goal celebrations.
Sky Sports News and the Times have reported that 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.
Before every game, there is a captain's brief, in which the match officials and club captains discuss a range of matters regarding the match ahead of them; pre-match gestures such as taking the knee, etc. In these meetings, referees will inform players of their responsibility to be cautious during goal celebrations.
This comes as a result of league officials reportedly being wary of football becoming an easy target for criticism during a period when Covid-19 cases are reaching all time highs.
Numerous matches have been called off and rearranged due to Covid-19 outbreaks within clubs, prompting calls to put the season on pause, as it was back in March 2020.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and his former assistant Mikel Arteta, now at Arsenal, have both warned that players will find it difficult to resist the urge to celebrate with their teammates.
"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 his side's clash with Crystal Palace on Thursday, made the point that allowing man marking at corners but outlawing fist bumping makes the protocols difficult to understand.
"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."