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Premier League chief calls on players to follow Covid-19 rules and set a good example

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Premier League players have got to “follow the rules” and “set a good example” over Covid-19 protocols, says chief executive Richard Masters.

Clubs were reminded that “handshakes, high fives and hugs must be avoided” and players should social distance whenever possible on and off the pitch.

“The players get it,” Masters told BBC Sport.

“They know we’re asking them now again to adjust their behaviours on the pitch, in goal celebrations and around the beginning and the end of matches.

“We’re asking them to adapt and understand why you’ve got to follow the rules and you’ve got to set a good example.”

Players embraced after goals in top-flight matches this week.

An anonymous Premier League player told BBC Sport it will be difficult to avoid breaking the new goal-celebration rules, which came in after a rise in coronavirus cases in England.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said footballers must follow Covid-secure guidelines and that “football authorities must enforce them strictly”.

So far this season several Premier League matches have been postponed following Covid-19 outbreaks, including Aston Villa’s matches against Tottenham on Wednesday and Everton this Sunday.

Masters said the new rules are a “very recent adjustment” and that the Premier League is trying to get the message across “in pretty quick order”.

Updated guidelines have been issued by the Premier League

West Bromwich Albion boss Sam Allardyce said he was “peeved” that players were being called “irresponsible”.

“We’re getting tested two or three times a week. We have sterilisers, masks and independent monitors at the training ground making sure we don’t do this or that,” said Allardyce, who was also critical of the UK government’s handling of the pandemic.

QPR striker Charlie Austin told 72+, the BBC’s new EFL podcast, that “the raw emotion takes over” after scoring a goal and it goes against natural instinct to not celebrate with team-mates.

“If we set ourselves the target of perfection then we’re going to fall short because football – all sport – is played in the moment. It’s played with emotion,” said Masters.

“It is justifiable and reasonable to expect to adjust the situation, and to be the example on the pitch and that’s what we’re asking players to do and we’ve had a good response so far.”

Between 28 December and 3 January, 40 Premier League players and club staff tested positive for coronavirus – more than double the previous weekly high, although the league is now conducting two rounds of tests per week.

Several Premier League players have been caught breaching coronavirus rules this season, with Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic and Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy apologising after attending New Year’s Eve parties.

“It’s very disappointing if you see anyone in football, not just players, breaching government guidelines,” said Masters.

“We’re in the public eye and we should be demonstrating adherence to those rules as best we can.”

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