Footballers breaching Covid protocols with hugging celebrations branded 'brainless'

Manchester City celebrate their first goal of the game during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday. Credit: PA

Elite footballers who continue to break Covid protocols by hugging and kissing to celebrate goals have been branded as “brainless” by the chair of the key parliamentary sports committee.

Manchester City and Fulham players crowded together after scoring in their respective matches on Wednesday night - despite warnings from the Premier League to stick to tightened restrictions.

Players have been told to avoid hugging, handshakes and swapping shirts as Covid rules are tightened in the wake of several outbreaks at clubs and a clutch of postponed matches.

Fulham celebrate their first goal of the game during the Premier League match at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday. Credit: PA

City boss Pep Guardiola defended his players, saying: "Sometimes the brain is a sub-conscious one and you are just there in the moment, you are not thinking."

But Julian Knight, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, told the PA news agency: "Some of the scenes we have seen have been brainless and give out an awful message."

Chelsea coach Frank Lampard told ITV News to control the emotions is a fair ask but to dictate emotions will be difficult on pitch.

The public has been told to stick to strict social distancing measures with those living outside of their household - but elite players have been seen embracing one another during games.

Captains and managers will be attending a series of virtual meetings over the next two days to talk through the changes to the Covid-19 protocols.

Mansfield Town players congratulate each other at the end of the Sky Bet League Two match at the Boundary Park, Oldham. Credit: PA

Clubs are expected to investigate protocol breaches themselves, with the Premier League able to come over the top if it feels not enough has been done.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has written to the clubs outlining the changes to the rules - and the need to continue to double down on following the existing ones.

The Football Association and the English Football League have also reminded clubs involved in their competitions about the protocols after some notable breaches in recent weeks.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during the latest Downing Street briefing. Credit: PA

EFL chief executive Trevor Birch warned its clubs they were “under the microscope” as never before on Monday.

The government has given professional sport the go-ahead to continue, despite many other areas of life being placed under heavy restrictions in a new national lockdown.

Indeed the health secretary and one of his top medical advisers have commented on the issue too, in varying degrees of severity.

Speaking on Wednesday, Matt Hancock appeared more lenient on the issue than deputy chief medical advisor for England, Jonathan Van-Tam, who said: "Every close human contact that is avoidable should be avoided."