In the Premier League, fear and lies fill the lack of vaccination
The Premier League claim they have done everything they could reasonably do to persuade their players to accept the vaccines. Van Tam not only spoke to club captains in the league, but also posted a video, highlighting the importance of vaccination and dispelling myths, to reinforce the message. He visited teams in person. Other clubs, struggling to persuade their dissenters to get vaccinated, have been offered tours of experts keen to answer questions and allay fears.
The clubs, too, have “played their part”, as Molango said. Many have invited medical teams to their training facilities to make it easier for players to get vaccinated. In Liverpool, Jürgen Klopp has been a strong advocate of the “moral” imperative to get vaccinated. Leeds United officials have made vaccination a non-negotiable part of a player’s duty to teammates, and in other teams, players have embraced vaccination after being shaken by the experiences of teammates who test positive, or the effect that Covid-related deaths have had on friends and colleagues.
Other clubs, however, have been accused of being too light-hearted, of not offering enough advice to players at the start, of giving the illusion that there was no real emergency. Critics say this created a space in which disinformation could flourish. A Premier League team initially encouraged players to get the shot in their spare time. When that didn’t get a lot of response, the leaders dropped the hint again. It was only after a few weeks that the club, realizing that it had hit a wall, made the decision to invite a vaccination team to the training center.
The approaches of the clubs, however, are starting to change. This summer, a number of transfer agreements included written clauses in players’ contracts that vaccination was mandatory. Agents expect this to become the norm in the coming months: Klopp, like Aston Villa’s Steven Gerrard and Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta, has made it clear his club would prefer not to sign unvaccinated players.
Internal measures are also increasingly stringent. At least one Premier League club are no longer allowing unvaccinated players to dine with their teammates and require them to put on their training gear before arriving or in their car, rather than in the locker room. The Premier League is now considering adapting its protocols to generalize similar precautions.
The hope, among those charged with ensuring the safety of the players, is that a more active and draconian position will prove decisive among all, except for a few ardent resistance fighters. Until then, all the league can do is try to counter the misinformation, change all minds, and hope the games can continue.