Sports bodies ponder coping with COVID

Formula One is considering imposing mandatory vaccination against the coronavirus for the 2022 season as sport continues to wrestle with the challenge of keeping the show on the road in a pandemic.

In contrast England’s Rugby Football League (RFL) have ruled out compulsory vaccination, but thus been forced to delay reinstating scrums for the 2022 season amid insufficiently high vaccination rates.

Meanwhile, football matches across Europe are either being postponed, or being played in front of restricted – or absent – crowds.

F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali told Autosport magazine vaccination could be obligatory in the paddock.

“Having finished a season with 22 races, it makes us cautiously optimistic for what the start of the 2022 season should be like, where alas Covid may still be present,” Domenicali said.

“But it is no coincidence that one of the last things approved in the last FIA World Council, as a precaution, is to have all F1 staff vaccinated to be in the paddock.”

Next season is due to begin in Bahrain on March 20 with the traditional season-opener in Australia, which retains strict entry requirements and quarantine rules, delayed to April.

The RFL planned to reintroduce scrums if 85 per cent of players had been double-vaccinated by December 31, but with that threshold not yet having been met in either the Super League (80.66 per cent) or the Championship (81.71 per cent), a decision was postponed until the end of January.

Karen Moorhouse, the RFL’s Chief Regulatory Officer, said: “We have not mandated vaccination, but we have worked with clubs to encourage their players to do their part.

The RFL has urged clubs to encourage all their players to have booster jabs as those taking part in scrums who have not been vaccinated would currently be required to self-isolate for 10 days as close contacts of anyone who tested positive

Much of European football closes over Christmas and the New Year and Italy’s Serie B joined them when matches scheduled for December 26 and 29 were postponed following a series of positive cases. The second division will resume on January 13.

Scottish football has also brought forward its winter break but Boxing Day fixtures will take place, albeit with crowds of only crowds of 500. Rangers, whose Ibrox ground holds 44,000, said: “We share the immense frustration of our loyal fans, who would have ensured the match would have been a sell-out, however, we will now only be able to welcome a miniscule proportion to the stadium.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney responded to criticism saying: “We need to quite simply reduce the degree to which people are interacting. [This] sends a very clear signal that we have to reduce that interaction.”,

In England games are going ahead, but by mid-afternoon Thursday half the 42-match Boxing Day programme had been postponed including two Premier League fixtures: Liverpool-Leeds and Wolves-Watford.

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