Premier League stars who refuse Covid vaccine could be barred from playing matches

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European matches could mean players miss domestic fixtures

The change could cause serious disruption for Premier League clubs. Some 16 per cent of Premier League players – around one in six – have still not had a single Covid vaccination dose, according to statistics released by the league last month.

It would mean clubs competing abroad in the Champions League or Europa League during the week may have scores of players unavailable to them for Premiership matches the following weekend.

The Culture Secretary’s proposal is in its early stages of being worked up and has not yet been signed off by the Cabinet or Downing Street, with the Prime Minister likely to have the ultimate say on whether it goes ahead.

France and Italy announced last month that all professional sportspeople living there would need to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

The French Government confirmed on Friday this would not apply to non-residents. Italy has yet to confirm its own plans for the latter.

Exemptions regime to ‘be reviewed’

A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “Throughout the pandemic we have put in place measures to allow international sport to continue, while at the same time protecting public health.

“We have exemptions for domestic and international sportspeople to leave self-isolation for specified events, but only to train or to compete. They must self-isolate at all other times, and must follow strict protocols in the operation of these events.

“We are committed to international sport continuing and will review the exemptions regime to ensure it is operating effectively and fairly.”

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