Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has urged players to follow the league’s COVID-19 protocols and set a good example to the country.
All 20 teams are currently playing in front of empty stands, with the United Kingdom currently in a nationwide lockdown following a second spike in coronavirus cases.
Clubs have been reminded that “handshakes, high fives, and hugs must be avoided”, while players should socially distance whenever possible on and off the pitch.
"We're asking the players to adjust to the situation, that they understand that we're in a fortunate position,” Masters said in a statement on the Premier League’s website.
🗣️ “We’ve brought in additional measures to keep people safe and to reduce the chance of infection”#PL Chief Executive on the new safety protocols and completing the season: https://t.co/WQLMfO0b3K pic.twitter.com/w1EvmhJ5a5— Premier League (@premierleague) January 15, 2021
“We're able to carry on, we're able to ply our trade while millions of others aren't and the rules are in place to keep people safe.
"We're asking players to change their behaviors around those sort of social moments and at the beginning and the end of games. I'm sure they'll adjust accordingly."
Players have been criticized recently for embracing each other in goal celebrations, while images following last weekend’s FA Cup ties drew widespread condemnation on social media.
Masters believes the impact of coronavirus will be reduced by the new guidelines.
"We've had the first set of figures back and they are low," he said.
"They’re back to pre-Christmas numbers, so we're hoping that isn't a one-off and that is the start of a trend.
“And we believe we can keep the infection rate at a manageable level, keep the Premier League safe and keep the show on the road.”
"We want to be part of a national effort," Masters added.
"We know we're in a significant situation.
Social distancing will be encouraged whenever possible, including:— Premier League (@premierleague) January 15, 2021
✅ While travelling
✅ In the dressing room
✅ During warm-ups
✅ When entering and leaving the pitch
✅ At all times with Match Officials
✅ During goal celebrations pic.twitter.com/QBTZkCeLK5
"We are fortunate to be able to continue playing and sport gives people a semblance of normality. It gives people a social connection to be able to watch it on TV and better communicate, something to look forward to.
"We understand we are in a privileged position and are really proud to be able to put the Premier League on television and offer something to the country at this really difficult time. We want that to carry on."