Premier League Soccer Faces Unprecedented Pandemic Regulations

Unlike+before%2C+the+Premier+League+faces+many+strict+pandemic+regulations%2C+including+social+distancing.+

Courtesy of Peter Woodentop

Unlike before, the Premier League faces many strict pandemic regulations, including social distancing.

Anthan Wingate

Since 1992, the Premier League has been one of the highest levels of professional soccer. Over this 28 year period, this English soccer league has had very minimal changes. However, with the Coronavirus pandemic, changes have been made to almost every aspect of the game, including rules regarding fans, new guidelines about social distancing on a game day, and new protocols about training and games for the clubs in the Premier League.

The fans. Arguably one of the most important parts of English football are the fans. They cheer for ninety straight minutes—singing songs, waving flags and supporting their team in almost any way imaginable. During the beginning of “Project Restart,” all of the games in the Premier League were played behind closed doors, meaning only limited press and the clubs staff and players could be allowed inside the stadium. This was very disappointing for both the fans and players. Fans had to watch the games from home, while the players did not have any of the cheering or support they normally receive throughout their games. According to statista.com, the average number of fans in a Premier League game in the 2019/2020 season was almost 30,000. Now, the players had zero. On the second of December, however, a very limited number of fans were allowed to attend games of certain teams based on a lottery system. The maximum number of fans for these clubs was to be capped at 2,000. According to Joe Prince-Wright of NBC Sports, “ 2,000 fans in stadiums that can hold over 60,000 isn’t a lot, but it’s a start.” 

Social distancing has been one of the most universal guidelines for helping to stop the spread of the Covid-19 disease. According to an infographic in SkySports, players are expected to socially distance themselves during a variety of activities. For example, they are expected to not come into close contact with each other whenever they are traveling or changing in the locker rooms with one another. In addition to that, the rules state that the team is supposed to be social-distancing during warm ups and goal celebrations. However, multiple club managers have defended their players breaking these guidelines, specifically the rule about social-distancing during goal celebrations. Pep Guardiola, the manager of Manchester City, says, “Unfortunately, sometimes the brain is a subconscious one and you are just there in the moment, you are not thinking, it is an instinctive reaction.” He said this in defense of his players hugging each other after Phil Foden had made his eighth goal of the season. Cardiff City’s manager, Neil Harris, said that he thinks it is impossible to stop players from celebrating with their team after they score. “The raw emotion of scoring a goal in that heat of the moment, you cannot control that.”

New protocols have been put in place by the government for all Premier League clubs. Players are expected to wear face coverings whenever they are doing anything in the stadium. The only exceptions are players who are playing on the field and immediate coaching staff. The substitute players sitting on the bench or staying on the sidelines are also required to wear a full face covering. Social-distancing became stricter with the rule that teams must take three coaches to transport all players and staff instead of the previous rule of two. According to SkySports, clubs should label certain “red areas” limited to only first team players and coaching staff. Clubs are also required to make sure all coaching staff have tested negative for Covid-19 before traveling with the squad to play games. Compliance officers have also been put to use for making sure players and staff are following all the protocols in the locker rooms and out on the bench.

The addition of limited fans, rules about social distancing, and all of the protocols now in effect are changing the Premier League. This is making history for English football, as new rules and regulations are being introduced and replaced.