'Now is not the time for complacency' - EFL chiefs write to all clubs including Sunderland, Portsmouth, Ipswich and Peterborough in bid to avoid season suspension

EFL chiefs have written to all clubs to remind them of their responsibilities over Covid-19 protocols in a bid to avoid a season suspension.

Tuesday, 12th January 2021, 11:19 am

With the country in another lockdown, elite sport – including the Premier League, EFL and National League – is continuing but there has been growing scrutiny on the sport in recent weeks as infection rates continue to rise across the country.

New EFL chief executive Trevor Birch wrote to all clubs on Monday, report the BBC, warning them "now is not the time for complacency" over Covid protocols.

The letter added: "We will come under extreme governmental pressure if we continue to flout the rules and guidance in place.

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"It is more important than ever that all club staff and players vigilantly follow the processes to avoid a suspension and the implications, particularly financial, associated with such a drastic course of action."

In the letter, seen by BBC Sport, EFL chief executive Birch added: "Throughout the pandemic, football has provided a glimmer of hope for many millions of people affected by restrictions but we all understand the scrutiny the game remains under.

"While football is permitted to continue the actions of all participants will clearly be under the microscope.

"I am therefore personally asking you to re-double your efforts, to check, amend and tighten your protocol accordingly, and ensure that players and staff are left in no doubt as to their responsibilities on matchdays."

Sunderland had a Covid-19 outbreak before Christmas which saw four League One matches postponed and the Academy of Light training ground closed for 10 days, while several of their promotion rivals have also had to call games off including Portsmouth, Ipswich Town and Peterborough United.

Sunderland returned to action the weekend before last, drawing with Northampton Town and Hull City.

In the Premier League, stronger protocols have already been introduced including; players and managers reminded to avoid unnecessary contact, with compliance officers told to check behaviour in dressing rooms, officers would also check hotel stays and travel plans, with staff numbers at training grounds reduced to enforce social distancing guidelines.

Stricter matchday protocols include avoiding unnecessary contact at all times, and substitutes wearing face masks.

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