Sport

Novak Djokovic Tells Reporters to Back Off on Asking about Vaccination Status: “It’s a Private Matter”

Footballers haven’t been the only sportspeople to be barraged by invasive questions about their Covid vaccination status. Tennis players have received the same treatment, but Novak Djokovic is standing his ground, saying reporters are “taking the liberty” to ask whether he has been jabbed and “judg[ing] a person” for not giving the ‘correct’ answer. RT has the story.

World number one Djokovic has repeatedly expressed his reservations about players being pressured to take a Covid jab, and the reigning Australian Open champion insists his decision is a “private matter” amid a string of controversies surrounding the likes of NBA star Kyrie Irving, who has been left out by the Brooklyn Nets because he is not vaccinated.

Djokovic rival Stefanos Tsitsipas found himself at the center of a political row after he made a wide range of remarks about Covid and vaccines, and the Greek – whose own Government seemed to distance themselves from views which appeared to include a suggestion that spreading the virus could have positive effects – now appears to be willing to be vaccinated.

Russian contender Andrey Rublev has become the latest player to drop their apparent reluctance because of the logistical issues not being vaccinated could cause, but Djokovic is yet to openly say he has had the treatment.

“Things being as they are, I still don’t know if I will go to Melbourne,” Djokovic told Blic, speaking ahead of a first Grand Slam of the year in January which is likely to take place under tight restrictions.

“I will not reveal my status, whether I have been vaccinated or not – it is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry.

“People go too far these days in taking the liberty to ask questions and judge a person.

“Whatever you say – ‘yes, no, maybe, I am thinking about it’ – they will take advantage.”

Daniel Andrews, the Premier of the state of Victoria, has reiterated how difficult it could be for unvaccinated stars to travel to the country, explaining that they may not be allowed in.

“I don’t think an unvaccinated tennis player is going to get a visa to come into this country,” predicted the politician.

“If they did get a visa, they’d probably have to quarantine for a couple of weeks when no other players will have to.

“I don’t think any other tennis player or golfer or Formula One driver will even get a visa to get here.

“Professional sport is part of that authorised worker list and they have to be double-dose vaccinated.”

Worth reading in full.

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.

Vaccine Passports to Be Checked at England Rugby Matches

Vaccine passports are alive and well, despite the Government’s scrapping of its plans, with certification set to be required at upcoming England rugby matches. In order to attend, fans will need proof either of having been vaccinated against Covid, of recently testing negative or of recently having recovered from the virus. Given plans to scrap free Covid testing, options available to fans may soon become even more limited. The Telegraph has the story.

The Rugby Football Union announced on Tuesday that the visits of Tonga, Australia and world champions South Africa next month would witness the use of so-called Covid passports.

The fixtures, set to be England’s first in front of a packed Twickenham since last year’s Six Nations, will see spot checks carried out to ensure adults attending are either fully vaccinated, have taken a negative test up to 48 hours earlier, or have natural immunity.

Welcoming back “capacity crowds”, the RFU said: “There will be more checks prior to entry than normal for everyone attending, whether as a fan or here to work. Please arrive early and allow more time than usual to access the stadium.”

England last played in front of a packed Twickenham on March 7th 2020 when they beat Wales 33-30 in a thrilling Six Nations game.

That was the final weekend before the tournament was effectively suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.

And it’s not just rugby:

Formula 1 medical driver Alan van der Merwe was on Tuesday night facing being banned from the climax of the season after it emerged he had refused to be vaccinated against coronavirus.

Van der Merwe and anyone else unjabbed who would otherwise travel to a Grand Prix were in danger of being prevented from attending the final three races in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

Proof of vaccination is currently required in the former two countries, while it is also expected to be necessary for access to the paddock at the latter race.

That could see some of the hundreds of personnel that normally travel to a Grand Prix banned from attending unless granted an exemption to do so.

That would include any unvaccinated drivers, although a source told Telegraph Sport it was thought all of them had been double-jabbed.

Van der Merwe and F1 doctor Ian Roberts both missed Sunday’s Turkish GP after testing positive for Covid. …

He [said]: “I am fully aware that I will potentially be less employable or that my freedom of movement will be restricted based on my choices.

“That I will not choose convenience over my own health does not mean I am making decisions out of selfishness. We all just want to be healthy.”

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.

Unvaccinated Australians Will Be Barred From Major Sporting Events

Australians will soon need to have proof of full vaccination to visit major sporting venues as state premiers prepare the ground for the introduction of vaccine passports. The Premier of New South Wales said in a press conference on Monday: “Any incentives we can provide to encourage people to get vaccinated and stick to the health restrictions, that is our priority.” Mail Australia has the story.

Plans are already underway to make vaccine passports mandatory in New South Wales while a similar approach is being considered in Victoria.

Fans will need to have both Covid jabs to visit a stadium and watch big sporting events like the NRL, AFL, or cricket.

Venues NSW Chairman Tony Shepherd will put forward his proposal to the State Government in the next few weeks and hopes they will be approved by next year. 

“If you choose not to have the jab that is your civil right in a free country but the Delta strain is extremely transmissible and we need to do something to reopen our stadiums,” he told the Daily Telegraph

“The venues will have to say you can’t attend. Simple as that.” …

[Victoria] Premier Daniel Andrews said at a press conference on July 21st that officials would make an “informed discussion” about reopening games to vaccinated residents.

“[The vaccine] will be here September, October, November… then I think we can have an informed discussion and say: ‘Right, we’re at X%, here’s all the benefits that might flow from that’,” he said. 

The Premier said vaccinated fans being able to attend games would be part of a wider attempt to incentivise people to get the jab.

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.

The Case for Vaccine Passports Is Strong, Says Michael Gove

Michael Gove says there is a “strong case” for the introduction of vaccine passports “in appropriate locations”, such as at Premier League football matches, arguing that “everything… we can do in order to reduce [the risk of Covid transmission], we should”. He hopes that “some form of certification” will be introduced across all four nations in the U.K. “This,” he believes, “is the right way to go.”

In an interview with the BBC, Gove said that vaccine passports would “make sure we can have greater confidence that big events are not likely to be super-spreader events”. He cited the “spike” in Covid cases following the Euro 2020 games – which experts believe helped squash the latest peak – and said certification would help to “make sure that major activities… are safe” because those who are vaccinated are “less likely to be carriers of the virus”.

This is exactly the sort of “nonsense” that Hugh Osmond, Founder of Punch Taverns, criticised on Sunday when he highlighted that, under Government plans, someone who is fully vaccinated but has Covid will be allowed into a “large venue” but someone who is unvaccinated yet doesn’t have Covid will be barred.

By saying that certification checks will make venue owners more confident that their events are not likely to be “super-spreader events”, Gove also appears to have forgotten the results from 10 recent Government trial events. These identified just 28 positive Covid test results among 58,000 participants *without* the use of vaccine passports.

Despite all this, Gove insists that “the case for certification, overall, is a strong one”.

You can watch the BBC interview here.

Stop Press: Gove says that those who refuse the vaccine are “selfish”, according to Politics For All.

Premier League Players and Staff Also Face Mandatory Vaccination

The reach of the Government’s plans for mandatory vaccination continues to grow, with reports now suggesting that Premier League players and staff will need to have received two doses of a Covid vaccine for matches to go ahead later this year. This follows the news on Tuesday that, under new Government plans, fans will be denied entry to sports events with capacities of 16,000 spectators or more if they can’t show proof of vaccination. The MailOnline has more.

The Government announced earlier this week that fans would require a Covid pass showing their vaccination status to attend matches from October 1st.

Now Sportsmail has learned that this guidance will also apply to players and other match-day personnel. Testing twice a week and Covid-secure red zones at stadiums and training grounds have kept the Premier League going almost without interruption since its resumption after the first lockdown in June 2020.

But under the Government’s new guidance, negative tests will no longer be enough for players. Top-flight clubs were anxious to avoid being seen to jump the queue for vaccinations, but many now face a race against time to ensure their players receive two jabs within the stipulated eight-week window. …

The Premier League are supportive of Covid passes as they believe the measure could help them operate stadiums at full capacity next season and they are planning to bring them in next month.

However, not all the players are so enthusiastic, with youngsters at numerous clubs understood to have reservations about being jabbed. …

Sportsmail has been told that only two of the 20 Premier League clubs have so far succeeded in vaccinating all of their staff.

Any players unwilling to be vaccinated would be able to seek an exemption on medical or religious grounds, although the process for doing so has yet to be established.

Several British and Irish Lions declined a vaccination before leaving for South Africa, while not all of the Olympians in Tokyo have been jabbed.

The Government guidance applies to all sports, some of whom are less enthusiastic about the introduction of Covid passes. Numerous EFL clubs have raised objections, arguing it will deprive them of young fans and hurt them financially. …

The Premier League are working with clubs to ensure all players and staff are vaccinated as soon as possible, as they are committed to supporting the Government’s policy.

Worth reading in full.