Football

Premier League Has “Worst Vaccination Rate” in the World of Sport

Government and sports officials continue to apply pressure on Premier League football which is said to have the “worst vaccination rate in the world”. They have been left wondering how else they can increase uptake now that suggestions of rewards for clubs with high jab rates and an ‘education campaign’ featuring Professor Jonathan Van Tam, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, appear to have fallen flat among players. The Mail on Sunday has the story.

Mail on Sunday survey has found that almost all other top leagues have a much higher vaccine take-up rate than English football.

Even tennis – which has had a similar issue with vaccine hesitancy – is threatening to outstrip English football, with the take-up rate on the ATP Tour having improved by around 20% over the past six weeks.

Rival sports have attributed their success to reasons that include top athletes promoting the jab and tougher restrictions for unvaccinated players, neither of which have happened in the Premier League.

This has been done in some American sports such as the NFL, who have more than 95% of their players and staff fully-vaccinated despite a number of high-profile refuseniks with some franchises as high as 100%.

They credit star players and coaches coming out as strong vocal advocates for vaccination as a key factor in their high number, such as Superbowl-winning coach Bruce Arians.

“That has had a huge impact in dressing rooms,” NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills told the Mail on Sunday. “Young and less experienced players look up to them and want to be as successful in the same way. It speaks to have people who have the trust of the players. That has been incredibly important.”

The Premier League has lacked such a spokesperson among top players with conspiracy theories about virility and heart defects being shared amongst WhatsApp groups.

They were unable to persuade its players to take part in a similar publicity campaign despite myth-bunking [sic] videos from… Jonathan Van-Tam. …

The Premier League still lags behind. Of its 20 clubs, 13 were understood to have vaccination rates of less than 50%, according to a letter sent to clubs in September. This figure is likely to have risen slightly.

The most recent set of Football League figures, revealed by Sportsmail last week, had just 49% of players fully vaccinated. A quarter of EFL players effectively said they were not planning to get jabbed.

Worth reading in full.

A Quarter of Football League Players Don’t Intend to Get ‘Jabbed’

Coverage of the vaccination rates within English football clubs rages on, with the papers and Government figures likely fuming that a quarter of Football League players don’t intend to get ‘jabbed’. Unsurprisingly, reports blame “conspiracy theories” for swaying the minds of the “vaccine rebels”. The Mail on Sunday has the story.

The proportion of footballers who have been double-vaccinated has increased from approximately 18% in August to 49% in the latest set of figures collated by the League.

But the number of players who have been immunised or plan to get the jab has gone up by only 5% over the past month, the Mail on Sunday has learnt.

“Approximately 75% of players this month across the EFL are fully vaccinated, have had a single jab or intend to be vaccinated, which is up from 70% in the last set of figures,” a source said.

It is understood that some players are reluctant to get vaccinated against the disease because their youth and level of fitness mean they are unlikely to suffer should they contract it.

They are also concerned by stories of people suffering heart inflammation after taking the vaccine, even though official medical agencies have reported such cases as “very rare”.

One theory circulating among players is that Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 might have been linked to the jab, despite no medical evidence to support the suggestion.

The latest figures emerge even though the EFL have stepped up efforts to “bust the myths” around the vaccine’s safety and to educate players on its benefits for individuals and society. Posters and leaflets containing such information have been distributed to clubs in the hope that they will be displayed in stadiums and training grounds.

The EFL are also working with the NHS to increase the number of mobile vaccination centres visiting clubs.

“Vaccinations will preserve the integrity of our competitions and we’re continuing to educate players and staff,” the source said.

The EFL and Premier League recorded a video with professor Jonathan Van-Tam last month in which the Government’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer debunked some of the conspiracy theories.

It was circulated among players’ WhatsApp groups, with the Government hoping their willingness to get vaccinated would encourage other young people to follow suit as take-up stalled in the general population.

Worth reading in full.

Five Members of England Football Squad Refuse Jab

Five English football players who have been selected for the England squad recently are refusing to have a coronavirus vaccine, threatening their places in the World Cup squad in Qatar. MailOnline has more.

Three senior team members are reportedly among the rebels who believe they are too healthy to suffer Covid or have been pressured by their wives.

One is said to have brazenly declared he was too “young and fit” to be negatively affected by the virus, while another reportedly believes the anti-vaxxer ‘conspiracy theories’ about the jab.

The rest of the players are understood to have been ‘pressured’ not to get the jab by their wives or girlfriends who are against the vaccine.

It will come as a huge blow for England boss Gareth Southgate as World Cup organisers plan to ban all unvaccinated players from Qatar next year.

The Premier League is also struggling to clamp down on stars not taking the vaccine, with almost two-thirds of top-flight players yet to be fully jabbed and many refusing altogether.

Club officials are complaining dressing rooms have been ‘polluted’ by senior players spreading conspiracy theories involving Bill Gates, infertility and the power of vitamins.

But on Thursday night the league received reassurances from the Government that unvaccinated players will remain available for selection if Covid passports are made compulsory at mass events.

Former footballers weighed in on the issue and openly argued on social media over whether vaccines should be forced on stars.

Ex-England player Chris Waddle branded it “embarrassing” and called for a “simple no jab no play” policy. But former Tottenham midfielder Jamie O’Hara hit back, saying “it’s a choice and everyone has a choice in life”.

Worth reading in full.

Premier League to Reward Clubs with Highest Numbers of Vaccinated Players

Amid concerns of a low vaccine uptake among professional footballers, the Premier League has sent a briefing note to all 20 clubs outlining that the body might reward teams for making sure their players are double jabbed. What these potential incentives may be remains unclear. In addition, the Premier League has cited concerns over international travel and the likelihood of vaccine passports being introduced in the near future. The Mail has the story.

The Premier League has written to clubs informing them of plans to “reward” teams who have the highest numbers of vaccinated players

Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante was confirmed on Tuesday as the latest player to contract Covid, forcing him to miss his side’s Champions League clash against Juventus on Wednesday night. 

And Sportsmail can reveal that in a briefing note sent to clubs last week, the Premier League are stepping up their efforts to ensure more players are fully vaccinated due to fears over a slow uptake.

The document read: “According to the data we have, only seven clubs’ squads are more than 50% fully vaccinated, so we have a way to go.”

Sportsmail revealed last week that at least two Premier League sides have no more than six players vaccinated.

But Wolves, Brentford and Leeds have reported between 89 and 100% vaccination levels and there is growing optimism that the figures at other clubs will increase in the coming weeks.

The note continued: “We are considering if and how best we can ‘reward’ those squads/players who are most Covid-compliant and who have opted to be vaccinated.

“It is increasingly clear that full vaccination will be the key criteria for Government and health authorities, in terms of international travel and potential Covid certification at large scale events.”

Worth reading in full.

Unvaccinated Footballers Could Be Barred from Next World Cup

Qatar is believed to be pushing for unvaccinated footballers to be barred from playing in next year’s World Cup, with fans also having to show proof of full vaccination to attend matches. MailOnline has the story.

It is known that professional players’ views on taking the vaccine are mixed and there are some concerns Qatar’s stance could rob the tournament of its stars – something all parties want to avoid.

Qatar, who have already administered more than 4.6 million vaccines so far, roughly 82% of their population, are in discussions with FIFA and medical authorities in efforts to reach an amicable solution.

The Athletic claim a number of options are being considered, including uninoculated players having to report negative tests every three days. …

A number of Premier League clubs are known to have players still resisting the Covid vaccine, including Arsenal and Switzerland star Granit Xhaka.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted last month “not all of the players have been double-jabbed”, adding: “I have encouraged them to take the vaccination but you cannot force anyone to do that.” …

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce has admitted that “a lot” of his players have not been vaccinated…

Deputy Chief Medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam has been forthright in urging players to take up the vaccine and told them to ignore the myths around it. …

Worth reading in full.

Government Set to Require Vaccine Passport Checks at Football Matches, Concerts and Conferences

We are starting to get a better picture of what the Government means when it says vaccine passports will be required at ‘large events’. Reports this morning suggest that ministers are set to impose Covid vaccination checks on those attending football matches, concerts, conferences and more – but the wider hospitality sector is likely to be left out of the scheme for now. The Mail has the story.

Boris Johnson announced plans in July to make double vaccination a “condition of entry” for nightclubs in England because of fears that they could become Covid hotspots.

But ministers will meet next week to discuss extending the requirement to a string of other “mass events”, the Mail has learnt.

Although final decisions have not been taken, a Whitehall source said the plans were likely to be “very similar” to those unveiled by Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland this week.

The SNP leader said vaccine passports would be mandated for all unseated live events attracting more than 500 people indoors or 4,000 outdoors. All events with audiences of more than 10,000 would also be covered, whether seated or not.

A Whitehall source said precise audience caps might vary in England but the types of events covered was likely to be the same.

The rules would make Covid passports mandatory for most big sporting events, as well as music concerts, festivals and some exhibitions. Sources said large theatres could also be covered.

But in a concession to Tory MPs, the Government is expected to rule out imposing the new system on the wider hospitality sector for now, meaning pubs and restaurants will escape.

The move will put ministers on collision course with more than 40 Conservative MPs who have pledged to vote against any plan for vaccine passports. It will require legislation, meaning there will be a crunch vote in the Commons. …

A Whitehall source said: “The evidence is that certification can help put a bit of control around an event and provide reassurance.

“Everyone understands the concerns around freedoms but we may be in a situation this winter where the alternative is more closures and economic damage to sectors that have suffered hugely already.”

Sources also suggest some affected businesses such as the Premier League, exhibition organisers and West End theatres have expressed interest in using vaccine passports to provide greater reassurance to customers.

Worth reading in full.

EFL Launches ‘Education Campaign’ to Persuade Footballers to Get ‘Jabbed’

Almost a third of English Football League players have not been – and don’t plan to be – vaccinated against Covid, according to new research. This comes amid reports that the EFL is launching an ‘education campaign’ aimed at getting more footballers ‘jabbed’ and has asked Professor Jonathan Van Tam, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, to take part. The Telegraph has the story.

Telegraph Sport can reveal that the Premier League and EFL have been collecting data this season on the number of footballers in their competitions to have been inoculated against Covid amid mounting fears many are refusing to be immunised, putting themselves, others and the integrity of the game at risk.

Telegraph Sport has been told data collected by the EFL last month shows around 70% of players at its 72 clubs had received at least one dose of vaccine or were intending to get jabbed. …

The EFL findings are largely in line with Government data showing around 70% of 18 to 29 year-olds had received at least one dose of vaccine.

But football wants and needs a much higher rate of take-up among players in order to limit the impact of any Covid outbreak on them and the game itself amid a rising number of cases this season.

Telegraph Sport can disclose that the findings by the EFL have prompted it to launch an education campaign aimed at convincing more footballers to be vaccinated and it has approached Jonathan Van Tam… to be part of that.

As revealed last month, Van Tam addressed the captains of the 20 Premier League clubs on August 2nd as part of a drive to encourage them and their team-mates to get jabbed ahead of the new season.

Van Tam told them they could not “outrun” Covid and he and Premier League medical advisor Mark Gillett addressed some of the myths around vaccination that have been circulating among players and causing some of them to stall.

The precise impact of that meeting is unclear but several managers subsequently admitted not all of their players had been jabbed. …

Telegraph Sport has been told that some EFL clubs would like to impose mandatory vaccinations on footballers – as some businesses have done with their employees – but fear a revolt were they to do so.

The Professional Footballers’ Association has made it clear that, while it supports immunisation efforts, it would not agree to forced jabs.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Here’s ‘Crid’s’ cartoon on the vaccination of professional footballers.

Subscribe to My QPR Substack Account

I’m a QPR fan and have decided to create a substack blog about following the team this season. After 16 months of writing about COVID-19, I thought it would be a blessed relief to write about football for a change. Although having said that, no aspect of our lives is unaffected by the virus and the English Football League may well insist on vaccine passports as a condition of going to games. On London Calling a few weeks ago, James Delingpole and I had a discussion about what would persuade us to get jabbed. He said he wouldn’t do it for £50 million, whereas I said I’d do it if it was the only way I could go to QPR games. I’ve had COVID-19 (been there, got the antibodies) so pose less infection risk to other football fans than someone who’s been double-jabbed. But if the EFL, in its wisdom, decides that a recent antibody test or a recent negative test isn’t sufficient and only those who’ve been fully vaccinated will be admitted, I’m still not 100% sure what I’ll do.

The blog is free to subscribe to, although if you become a premium subscriber you can access the full archive – and if you become a founding member I’ll take you to a QPR game. Way-hay!

I wrote the first post last night, which you can read here. Here’s an extract:

England’s three lockdowns didn’t cause me much suffering. I don’t have a shop selling ‘non-essential’ goods (e.g. books) that has now gone out of business. As a freelance journalist, I was never at risk of losing my job and didn’t need to take any hand-outs from the Treasury. I don’t have a life-threatening disease so I was never going to die because my local hospital wouldn’t admit me. I only have one elderly relative and she was in our ‘support bubble’. The biggest downside was the intermittent closure of schools, not least because one of my children was doing her A levels and another his GCSEs. No end-of-exams celebrations for them. But I was probably better off than 95% of the population.

The one thing I really missed was going to the football, which I had naively thought might be possible in the 2020-21 season. I even bought two season tickets to my beloved QPR – one for me, one for my 13 year-old son Charlie – and nonchalantly ignored the deadline for applying for a refund. At one point, the club announced that a few hundred fans would be allowed into the ground and Charlie and I eagerly put our names in the hat, only for the offer to be withdrawn when the ‘rule of six’ was introduced. The next best thing was going to the stadium’s posh restaurant on match day – which the club made possible for our game against Cardiff on October 31st. But it was £60 a head and we were told we wouldn’t be able to go over to the window to look out over the pitch. We would have to make do with a big screen. That sounded even more frustrating than watching the match at home, knowing the ground is only a mile away. (Although we did beat Cardiff 3-2.)

It was only when football started being played behind closed doors that I realised how much I valued the weekly ritual. And I say ‘weekly’ because Charlie and I had taken to going to away games, too, criss-crossing England by train. QPR’s away record isn’t great, so more often than not we’d find ourselves on Saturday evening in a carriage strewn with empty beer cans and KFC boxes, listening to middle-aged men in QPR shirts grumbling about missed chances and poor substitutions. Before the second half of the 2020-21 season, our home record wasn’t great either. We finished 13th in the table in the 2019-20 season and 19th in the season before that. Why, then, did I miss it so much?

Worth reading in full.

Tottenham Hotspur to Trial Vaccine Passports Ahead of New Premier League Season

Tottenham Hotspur has become the first Premier League football club to announce they will be trialling the use of vaccine passports ahead of the new season. Supporters attending upcoming matches will be instructed to show Covid passes, but unlike the vaccine passport scheme the Government hopes to introduce later this year, proof of a negative test will be sufficient. As such, these ‘trials’ won’t be much different from the 10 trial events already carried out by the Government earlier this year which identified only 28 positive Covid test results among 58,000 participants.

The decision by Spurs comes amid reports that Premier League fans, players and staff could all need to have received two doses of a Covid vaccine for matches to go ahead later this year. MailOnline has more.

Spurs have told supporters that all adults will have to show a pass before entering the stadium ahead of their men’s and women’s teams playing Arsenal on Sunday August 8th.

The Covid pass – generated by the NHS app – confirms a person has had two doses of vaccine, has obtained a negative test for the virus or has natural immunity stemming from a previous infection.

The move comes after Government issued advice for event organisers encouraging them to use Covid passports where large crowds are in attendance, including at sports events.

However, while the Premier League is working on plans, it does not expect all clubs to have a Covid certification scheme in place by the first round of matches starting on August 13th and Spurs are the first to unveil its arrangements.

A number of top flight clubs spoken to by Sportsmail have no plans to use Covid certification in pre-season friendlies despite large attendances, and they are still awaiting advice on what is expected when the league matches begin. …

The Premier League is supportive of establishing plans for some form of passport if it enables clubs to maintain full capacity, even if Covid surges in the autumn and winter.

Spurs said their trial was part of preparations for October.

“This follows recent Government announcements and the necessity for the Club to begin preparations for the potential of full vaccination against Covid being a condition of entry to large events from October 1st.”

“It also further ensures the safety and comfort of our supporters, players and staff as we begin hosting capacity crowds for the first time since March, 2020,” the club added.

Worth reading in full.

Why It’s Not All About the Football

Some people are suggesting that the recent surges and drop-offs in Covid infections in England and Scotland can be pinned on the football. The idea is that infections rose as fans mixed during the Euro 2020 championship and declined once Scotland was eliminated and England lost in the final.

It’s true that the summer surges in England and Scotland broadly coincided with when their teams were active in the tournament. Scotland’s new daily infections dropped off a few days after its exit on June 22nd, and England’s a few days after their loss to Italy on July 11th. Also, the male to female ratio of new infections briefly went up during the tournament.

However, that’s about where the coincidences end. The fact that the decline has continued for weeks in Scotland suggests it’s not a short term effect.

Perhaps more important, though, is the different shape of the curves in the two countries during June when both teams were still in the competition.