UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is urging footballers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.
In recent months, it has become increasingly clear that vaccine take-up is not as high among elite footballers as within the rest of society.
A story in British tabloid The Sun last week said Premier League clubs feared the government would ban unvaccinated players, suggesting there remains a reasonable proportion holding out.
The Premier League last released vaccination data in mid-October, at which point it was said only 68 per cent of players were fully vaccinated – in terms of wider society, over 80 per cent of adults aged 16 or older in England reported having been double-jabbed as early as July.
Vaccination has become an especially hot topic in the United Kingdom over the past few weeks amid the increase in football match postponements due to COVID-19 outbreaks, and UEFA is beginning a drive to promote the vaccine over the coming months.
“We’ve just launched a video promoting vaccination, it will go out tomorrow, I think,” Ceferin told a news conference on Thursday.
“We should promote the vaccine and we will. We don’t have the power to force anyone to be vaccinated, but the promotion starts today and in my humble opinion the video is good because only doctors talk in it.
“They explain why the vaccine is so important. They are experts saying the vaccine is good because of this, this and this, and that side effects are very rare. We will start promoting the vaccine now.”
Bayern Munich were reported to have taken a particularly strong stance against unvaccinated players, with claims they would dock wages of anyone forced to into quarantine if they had not been jabbed.
As many as five Bayern players – including Joshua Kimmich – were said to have delayed getting the vaccine, while it emerged in October that several members of the England squad were still unvaccinated.
However, Ceferin remains hopeful that such situations will soon be a rarity.
“For me, I believe in science,” he said. “I got vaccinated, and I think [the players] should get vaccinated] as soon as possible, but I still believe for now it’s a personal choice.
“People aren’t stupid. If you explain in a nice way, not judging them, explain why it’s good.
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“All figures show vaccinated people are less likely to get infected and all vaccinated people are less likely to have strong effects of COVID if they are infected.
“Sooner or later, if not all, the vast majority will understand it.”
Ceferin was also asked to address the challenges of matches not being able to go ahead because of outbreaks, with particular focus on Tottenham.
Their Europa Conference League match with Rennes was unable to go ahead last week and UEFA ruled it could not find a “viable solution in order to reschedule the match”.
Spurs are reportedly still attempting to find a workaround, including the possibility of playing the game in France rather than London, but they remain in a tricky situation after their clash with Leicester City was also postponed.
UEFA referred the case to their disciplinary arm and as such Spurs may have to forfeit the game with a 3-0 defeat – Ceferin accepts it may feel unjust but insisted these regulations ensure football’s integrity.
“We have our regulations that are clear,” he said. “Maybe they’re sometimes hard to understand, but without them I don’t think we could finish last season without stopping it.
“I know it sometimes looks unfair that a team has to play a certain match in a certain timeframe or the result is 3-0 for the other team, but if we didn’t have clear rules then we wouldn’t be able to finish the season.
“I sincerely hope we won’t need those regulations soon.”
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