Stop hugging! Footballers told not to cuddle after scoring goals

Stop hugging! Footballers warned not to celebrate goals with a cuddle as Covid rips through clubs and fears of a football shutdown increase with Gary Lineker saying the game may now be suspended ‘in the next few weeks’

  • PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor has reminded players to keep their distance
  • Warning comes as coronavirus continues to spread through clubs at all levels
  • The rapid spread of the virus has led to more calls to shutdown football
  • Ex-player and pundit Gary Lineker warns football may stop ‘in a few weeks’
  • FA Cup third round ties have been hit hard with clubs reporting fresh outbreaks 

Footballers have been warned to stop hugging during goal celebrations and after matches and to observe social distancing on the pitch, in an attempt to slow the rapid spread of coronavirus in clubs.

The edict comes after intense celebrations at high profile games, including a huge group hug among Manchester City ‘s players after they knocked rivals Manchester United out of the Carabao Cup in Wednesday’s semi-final at Old Trafford.

But this is only the latest example, with Southampton’s passionate celebration of Danny Ings’ goal, which defeated Liverpool at St Mary’s on Monday, or Wolves jubliant cuddle after going 3-1 up at Brighton on Saturday, equally intimate.

Manchester City players passionately celebrate their victory over rivals Manchester United

Existing Covid protocols stress the need for social distancing, but  Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, has reminded players to keep their distance.

‘We’ve sent a message to all our members saying, ‘you have done a great job, you’ve kept the game going and you deserve a lot of credit, but it’s important you keep to the protocols,’ Taylor told The Times.

‘Always abide by what you’re being told by doctors and medical staff with regard to the protocols about keeping your distance and the hygiene that’s required.

‘I understand with the celebration of a goal it’s difficult to just put the ball in the back of the net and act as though nothing has happened.

‘It’s that adrenaline rush… that’s what the game is all about, but that’s part and parcel of the process, so they’ll be reminded.’

Southampton players hugged after Danny Ings scored against the champions, Liverpool

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor has reminded players to keep their distance in games

The virus is spreading rapidly in the game. Forty players and staff tested positive for Covid in the latest rounds of Premier League testing this week, double the number of the week before and the highest firgure to date.

Four Premier League games and over 50 matches in the English Football League – which governs the three divisions below the top flight – have been postponed this season.

And third round FA Cup ties are also badly affected. The protocols are likely to be put to the test again this weekend with emotions inevitably running high in the competition.

Struggling Brighton relieved to open the scoring against Wolves celebrated with a hug

Wolves players celebrated after Ruben Neves (centre) put them 3-1 up in the same game

The Premier League and EFL both check clubs’ compliance with the protocols, and the top tier always has a monitor at the grounds.

However, like Taylor, league officials and health experts admit it is difficult to police when players respond to the joy of scoring, which is something they have done since childhood.

But, with the virus spreading so quickly within football, driven by the more infectious nature of the mutrant strain, clubs, leagues and the FA will have to address risk factors like hugging, or risk a shutdown of the game.  

Tottenham Hotspur hugged after scoring against Brentford in the Carabao Cup semi final

Ex-England striker Gary Lineker says he fears football may succumb to a shutdown soon

There have already been calls for matches to be suspended.

Gary Lineker, the Match of the Day presenter and former England striker, raised his fear that ‘football might succumb in the next few weeks’.

Fulham midfielder Kevin McDonald, 32, took to social media to claim players are being treated like ‘guinea pigs’ by allowing games to continue.

On his Instagram story, McDonald fumed: ‘How many more outbreaks and training ground closures until football needs to stop!!!!

‘Shambolic!! Literally treated like guinea pigs!!!’

Premier League midfielder Kevin McDonald has hit out at the football authorities for continuing the season despite the alarming increase in coronavirus cases throughout the UK

McDonald took to Instagram to blast the authorities for treating footballers like ‘guinea pigs’

Prof John Ashton, the former North West Regional Director of Public Health, told the Telegraph a pause in the season seems certain to happen.

‘It’s inevitable that they’re going to have to stop the games,’ he said.

‘It’s better to do it in a managed way, and make it into a proper break, rather than continue to decline this increasingly chaotic situation. 

Aston Villa have closed their training ground after a significant Covid-19 outbreak at the club

FA Cup ties impacted by Covid outbreaks

Chorley vs Derby 

 – Interim boss Wayne Rooney and the entire Derby first team squad will miss the third-round tie. The Championship side are set to field youth players so they don’t have to forfeit their place.

Southampton vs Shrewsbury

– The game was postponed after the League One club recorded 10 positive cases. Shrewsbury hope the match can be rescheduled with FA officials set to meet next week to decide.

Brentford vs Middlesbrough

The third-round game at Brentford was plunged into doubt after Boro reported a number of positive tests. Their Rockliffe Park training headquarters have been shut since Monday, with further results expected on the weekend after tests on Thursday.

Aston Villa vs Liverpool 

Discussions are ongoing between medical representatives at Villa, the Football Association and the Premier League about whether the match can go ahead after an outbreak in the Villa squad. Villa had to cancel Thursday’s training and have closed down their training facilities due to high number of cases.

In the latest developments, Aston Villa has been forced to shut their training facilities due to a significant Covid-19 outbreak – believed to affect more than 10 players and staff – ahead of their FA Cup tie with Liverpool.

Villa manager Dean Smith’s pre-match press conference, which was due to take place on Thursday, was postponed and the club is in talks with the FA over whether the fixture can go ahead using young players.

Elsewhere, Southampton’s third-round tie against Shrewsbury was called off due to an outbreak at the Sky Bet League One club. and Middlesbrough have seen their preparations for their game at Brentford disrupted by a series of positive tests.

The Professional Game Board will consider an alternative date. 

Burnley have said they have players who have tested positive prior to their game against MK Dons at Turf Moor. 

Manager Wayne Rooney and Derby’s entire first-team squad will miss the third-round tie at Chorley, with nine players and staff testing positive for Covid. The club will field a team of U23 and U18 players.

Meanwhile, the Premier League has stressed the need for clubs to follow protocols and the EFL has tightened their rules for match days and training.

Championship players have been told they cannot have showers after training unless they live more than an hour away under strict new guidance from the EFL.

The enhanced Covid-19 protocols were issued to clubs in all three EFL divisions this week ahead of the introduction of twice-weekly testing from January 11.

They make clear that players should arrive at training grounds in their kit and leave straight after the end of the session, unless they are facing a long journey home.


Round 1: Aug 31-Sep 6 – 1,605 tested, with three testing positive.

Round 2: Sep 7-13 – 2,131 tested, with four testing positive.

Round 3: Sep 14-20- 1,574 tested, with three testing positive.

Round 4: Sep 21-27 – 1,595 tested, with 10 testing positive.

Round 5: Sep 28-Oct 4 – 1,587 tested, with nine testing positive.

Round 6: Oct 5-11 – 1,128 tested, with five testing positive.

Round 7: Oct 12-18 – 1,575 tested, with eight testing positive.

Round 8: Oct 19-25 – 1,609 tested, with two testing positive.

Round 9: Oct 26-Nov 1 – 1,446 tested, with four testing positive.

Round 10: Nov 2-8 – 1,646 tested, with four testing positive.

Round 11: Nov 9-15 – 1,207 tested, with 16 testing positive.

Round 12: Nov 16-22 – 1,530 tested, with eight testing positive.

Round 13: Nov 23-29 – 1,381 tested, with 10 testing positive.

Round 14: Nov 30-Dec 6 – 1,483 tested, with 14 testing positive.

Round 15: Dec 7-13 – 1,549 tested, with six testing positive.

Round 16: Dec 14-20 – 1,569 tested, with seven testing positive 

Round 17: Dec 21-27 – 1,479 tested, with 18 testing positive 

Round 18: Dec 28-Jan 3 – 2,295 tested, with 40 testing positive 

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