Referees want the FA to ban players from coming within two metres of themselves and other in-ground officials amid concerns for their welfare.
Upon restarting the football season last June, the government, the FA and respite governing bodies of each of the leagues, made clear the rules that were being put in place to ensure that player and staff welfare was being upheld during the middle of a global pandemic.
Now, in 2021, COVID-19 continues to impact the lives of everyone in the UK and now in a worse way than ever before. There have been many calls for elite sport to be put on hold as cases continue to rise across much of the country, however, there currently seems to be no plans to do so. Instead, the leagues have reminded their member clubs to continue to stick to the strict rules.
But, what about referees?
Officials across the country have raised concerns over that, whilst being told to make sure they police the players on following the rules, not enough is being done to keep them safe.
Ref Support UK said: "It would be brilliant if the FA could also state that players should not intentionally be within 2 metres of a match official.
“There is no reason whatsoever for a player to be intentionally that close to a match official.”
The Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL) are responsible for implementing protocols across football but the FA insist that advice on social distancing has to be maintained as much as is possible during a match.
Instructions to officials are that a two-metre distance must be kept when confronting a player or issuing a disciplinary action and that physical contact must be minimised. The FA has claimed that match officials have the jurisdiction to take action if they see appropriate.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has written to all 20 clubs in the league to reinstate the importance of upholding the coronavirus measures, after scenes of celebrations involving hugging and close contact, caused controversy amongst fans and those outside of the game, questioning the seriousness that football is taking towards the virus.
"Everyone in the country has had to change the way they interact with people and ways of working," said sports minister Nigel Huddleston. "Footballers are no exception. COVID secure guidelines exist for football. Footballers must follow them and football authorities enforce them - strictly.”
Author: Jake Wilkin