English Premiership

Footballers must be role models over Covid rules: Villa chief

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Jack Grealish and Ross Barkley (Getty Images)
Jack Grealish and Ross Barkley (Getty Images)

Footballers must be role models and stop flouting coronavirus rules, Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow warned on Monday.

Villa captain Jack Grealish is one of a host of Premier League stars to break the lockdown restrictions since the pandemic hit.

The England winger was fined two weeks wages for his offence last year.

But several more top-flight players have broken the Covid-19 protocols, put in place to try to limit the spread of the virus, over Christmas and the New Year.

Tottenham trio Erik Lamela, Sergio Reguilon and Giovani Lo Celso attended a Christmas party along with West Ham's Manuel Lanzini.

Manchester City's France defender Benjamin Mendy reportedly allowed a chef and two friends of his partner to visit his home, according to a report in The Sun.

Several Premier League matches have been postponed as a result of virus outbreaks at Newcastle, Fulham and Manchester City this season.

Purslow claimed Villa have been strict with players who have broken the rules, although Grealish and team-mate Ross Barkley were not disciplined for eating at a restaurant together last month in contravention of London rules at the time.

"I take a very dim view of it," said Purslow.

"We've had a couple of instances and we've taken a very strict line on that.

"One of the shining lights of football has been the fact that, in such tough times, we've been able to keep the show on the road and provide entertainment at a time when there's very little entertaining out there.

"That means that there's a huge focus on our players and they have to understand that they are role models, they have to understand that they're in the public eye and my mantra is they have try to be whiter than white in everything they do."

Purslow said due to being a father of four he had seen the strains the restrictions placed on young people.

"I've got four children between the ages of 19 and 25, I've watched in the last nine months how incredibly challenging it is," he said.

"There are moments when young people will stray from the rules and, whether you're a parent or the chief executive of a football club, that's a time when you have to be very strict and remind people of their responsibilities."

Watford striker Troy Deeney echoed Purslow's remarks and agreed players must be role models because they are in a "privileged position."

"I'm going to upset a few people with what I say here but: you know better. We know better as players," he told TalkSPORT radio.

"Don't be posting (on social media) and then be going, 'Why are people coming for me?'"

There have been calls for players who break the rules to be banned, but Deeney believes that needs to come from the authorities rather than self-policing by clubs.

"They won't do that because ultimately it comes down to winning games," said Deeney.

"It's on the Premier League to make that call and the FA (Football Association)."

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