Newcastle had a stark reminder of the impact COVID can still have on a team with Eddie Howe absent from the dugout for the Brentford game. Interestingly at the time nothing was really mentioned about potential close contacts, or people being unvaccinated. One of the few things Bruce did speak well on when we were on a good run of form was encouraging younger people and pointedly his players to get vaccinated. We don’t know, nor should we as medical decisions should be personal, who is doubly or triple vaccinated from the players and who has not been vaccinated at all. However, across Europe and US sports, this is becoming an issue. Could it in the Premier League?

We can start in Germany where it is a requirement to show vaccination status to be able to go to games as a fan and for all club staff who are attending games. Markus Anfang, who was manager of second tier Werder Bremen, lost his job over his vaccine status when his certificates were questioned. The fact that this was deemed necessary may seem unfair in the UK but with the German rules clear, it does then bring into question are all managers and coaches in the Premier League vaccinated? And if not, why not, given the extra efforts that were made to get football back on in bio-secure bubbles. These are personal choices, I know some of my friends have made the decision not to be vaccinated, but now a new strain appears to be being transmitted in the community, can it be a line that is maintained?

The government have previously mentioned vaccine passports that would mean cinemas, restaurants and large events would only be open to people who could provide proof of vaccination. In the United States this has brought some interesting issues, not only for fans but also athletes. Kyrie Irving is one of the star point guards in NBA basketball, playing for the Brooklyn Nets. Falling under New York jurisdiction no unvaccinated people are allowed at indoor large events. Irving is paid roughly thirty million dollars per season, and is now banned from playing in his home stadium for the entirety of the 2021-22 season. That’s forty one of eighty two games. Andrew Wiggins was in the same position with the Golden State Warriors, but chose to get the Johnson one dose vaccine so he could play. Three Tampa Bay Buccaneers players have been suspended for three games without pay for not being honest on their vaccine status.

With the government seemingly wanting life to remain as is for as long as possible, a lot of what were to be the restrictions on returning to football stadiums appears to have disappeared. Are fans wearing masks in the stadium bowl? Not many. Are vaccine passports being checked? I’ve not been asked. It does appear that at least in England, it is back to normal where sports are concerned and certainly nothing like the levels that other countries are going to. Again using Germany as the example, there is a limit of how many fans can be at games which is a maximum of fifteen thousand and that is something that would be very difficult to sort at NUFC currently. Thinking back to Sheffield United when ten thousand were allowed in, but we couldn’t get rid of them all, then we have Manchester United selling out in about three hours and it will be a fifty two thousand game.

Imagine for a moment this does happen and an important player is not vaccinated, would we be happy to not have them for the remainder of the season? Is it something we might need to take into account with potential new signings? This could become very pertinent in January as any overseas arrival, even if signed on January first, would still have to get a work permit, and might then have to isolate or prove vaccine status. That may mean that although business is done early, that we aren’t able to pick them for a game or two to start the month. For us these could be crucial games so it is something the owners will have to consider.

In terms of where this goes next, who knows? The government like having one rule for them and one for us, but the idea that fans might have to have vaccine passports but the players and coaches don’t would be a whole new level. Having said that we haven’t reached anywhere near that stage yet and we do know that a lot of the LFT and PCR testing that the players have been doing has been to make sure they are not transmitting COVID, so maybe with the very small amount of positive cases around the league then it may be unnecessary.

Stephen Ord  @smord84