Unvaccinated England stars look set to be able to play at next year’s World Cup in Qatar following reports at least five Three Lions players have refused to have the Covid jab.
FIFA are in talks with Qatari authorities about scrapping the mandatory vaccination requirements for the showpiece tournament in 2022.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani announced in June that it would require any fans wanting entry into next year’s tournament to be fully inoculated against the coronavirus.
FIFA and Qatari officials are discussing the possibility that fans, players and officials will be able to provide proof of having recovered from Covid-19 or produce negative tests, a person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing discussions.
Qatar World Cup organisers and the Qatari government did not respond to a request for comment.
The girlfriend of England star John Stones reposted an anti-vaxx message on Instagram earlier this week.
England’s players pose for a team photo before the UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying Group A match between England and Montenegro at Wembley. There is no suggestion those pictured are refusing a vaccine
There are fears posts by Olivia Naylor (pictured) to 45,000 Instagram followers will dissuade others from having the vaccine
His girlfriend applauded a recent post (pictured) highlighting comments from basketball star Jonathan Isaacs, who claimed he’d be protected from the virus by natural immunity
Beauty clinic boss Olivia Naylor uploaded a recent post highlighting comments from NBA basketball star Jonathan Isaac, who claimed he’d be protected from the virus by natural immunity.
It is feared the reposting by the England star’s partner – who has 45,000 Instagram followers — will dissuade others from having the vaccine.
It was reported over the weekend that the footballers have given a string of ‘nonsense’ reasons for not having the jab.
One said he was too ‘young and fit’, another believes it is a tool for government’s to spy on people, and others are said to have been pressured against having it by their anti-vaxxer Wags.
It comes as it emerged five Three Lions players, have refused to have the Covid vaccine – including three who helped the team reach the Euro 2020 final. It is currently not known whether Manchester City defender Stones is one of those.
England boss Gareth Southgate explained how managers aren’t allowed to know which players have been jabbed due to medical privacy
The first indication of a relaxation of Qatar’s vaccine requirements could come when FIFA releases the tournament regulations for the Arab Cup. Qatar’s Lusail Stadium pictured
HIGH-PROFILE PLAYERS WHO TESTED POSITIVE
Mikel Arteta (Arsenal manager)
Arsenal confirmed their boss had become the first manager to catch the virus last March, which prompted the Premier League to suspend the season.
Jamaal Lascelles & Allan Saint-Maximin (Newcastle United)
Lascelles and Saint-Maximin suffered from long Covid, ruling both players out of action for more than a month.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea)
The midfielder tested positive shortly after the Blues returned from Belfast after the Super Cup against Villarreal.
Ryan Bertrand (Leicester City)
The left back revealed he was still struggling in training a month after having the virus.
Karl Darlow (Newcastle United)
The goalkeeper spent three days on a hospital drip and was ‘severely worried’ after getting the virus before his first vaccine. Darlow is now urging footballers to have the jab.
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
The Argentina striker, now at Barcelona, was sidelined for several weeks dealing with the effects of Covid last season.
Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)
The Swiss midfielder caused controversy after it emerged he had declined the vaccine before contracting Covid.
Sportsmail revealed last week that there is widespread opposition to vaccines among Premier League footballers, with almost two-thirds of top-flight players yet to be fully jabbed, and many refusing altogether.
Meanwhile, club officials are complaining that dressing rooms have been ‘polluted’ by senior players spreading conspiracy theories involving Bill Gates, infertility and the power of vitamins.
England manager Gareth Southgate, who answered a call from NHS England to urge young people to get jabbed earlier in the summer, explained how managers aren’t allowed to know which players have been jabbed due to medical privacy.
‘Our medical team would know but even I wouldn’t — they wouldn’t tell me who is and who isn’t,’ he said.
Southgate received a steam of online abuse after taking part in an advert to ramp up the inoculation drive.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp are among the high profile figures who have spoken of the importance of getting inoculated in recent days.
The first indication of a relaxation of Qatar’s vaccine requirements could come when FIFA releases the tournament regulations in the coming weeks for the Arab Cup. The 16-team tournament from November 30 to December 18 is being used as a test event for World Cup venues.
‘Qatar, as the host country, will provide the safeguards required to protect the health and safety of all involved in the competition,’ FIFA said in a statement.
‘All attendees must follow the travel advice from the Qatari authorities and the latest guidance from the Ministry of Public Health. Full information on Covid-19 safety measures will be communicated to all client groups as we approach the competition.’
For the first time on Sunday, FIFA offered direct encouragement for footballers to get vaccinated.
‘We encourage Covid-19 vaccinations,’ FIFA said, ‘and endorse the World Health Organisation’s position: Safe, fair, and equitable access is critical in all countries. Players should not receive priority access to vaccines.’
It comes after the British Government last week agreed to ease strict quarantine requirements to allow fully vaccinated players to train and feature in matches on their return to England from red-list countries, which includes all of South America.
Those players who don’t want to be vaccinated would still be sent to spend 10 days in government hotel quarantine when flying back to England.
‘We acknowledge this decision does not help every player,’ FIFA said, ‘and we remain committed to further improving the situation for upcoming windows and joining discussions to explain more about the many measures we are putting in place to reduce the risks of COVID transmission into the community as a result of player travel.’
Many Premier League clubs blocked players from going to red-list countries during the international window last month. Players who did go missed games for their clubs as a result.
‘We believe this is a much more desirable solution to the situation that players faced in September,’ FIFA added.
The Government spoke out against players not getting vaccinated on Sunday. Only seven of the 20 Premier League clubs have more than half of their squads fully vaccinated, according to the most recent data.
Health Secretary Mr Javid told Times Radio: ‘I would just appeal to these people, whether they are footballers, whoever it is… that the vaccines are working.
‘Help protect yourself and protect those around you. They’ve made a conscious choice (not to be vaccinated). It is disappointing, of course it is.
‘They are role models in society. People, especially young people, I think will look up to them and they should recognize that and the difference that can make in terms of encouraging others.’
The most assertive plea for players to get vaccinated has come this weekend from Liverpool boss Klopp.
He said: ‘I don’t take the vaccination only to protect me. I take the vaccination to protect all the people around me.’
Klopp said 99 per cent of the Liverpool squad had been jabbed as he compared the situation to ‘drink-driving’.
He added: ‘We were all probably in a situation where we had a beer or two and thought ‘I can drive’. But this law is not there for protecting me, it is there for protecting all the other people because I am (drunk) and want to drive a car. And we accept that as a law.
‘We all know alcohol is bad for our body but we still drink it. With the vaccination we assume it is not good for our body. Most specialists tell us the vaccination is the solution for the situation in this moment.’
A Government warning last month that compulsory certification could be introduced at one week’s notice had sparked alarm as the Premier’s League’s vaccination crisis shows no sign of abating.
The top flight remain concerned as the limited nature of many clubs’ vaccination programmes increases the chances of damaging Covid outbreaks, but they have been reassured after receiving more details of the Government’s winter plan.