Crystal Palace’s Eberechi Eze appears to break government’s coronavirus lockdown order


The FA are investigating Crystal Palace star Eberechi Eze’s visit to former club Queens Park Rangers on Saturday after England’s governing body did not give him permission to attend the fixture.  

Eze was pictured at QPR’s FA Cup tie against Fulham in west London, despite the government placing the country under draconian stay-at-home orders, with only essential trips outside permitted by law. 

Police are cracking down hard on those who breach the rules, with some people reportedly even arrested or fined for such small infractions as sitting on benches or leaving the house more than once per day.

Crystal Palace midfielder Eberechi Eze visited QPR’s FA Cup tie with Fulham on Saturday

Eze is a former QPR player and the Palace star watched his side lose 2-0 to local rivals Fulham

Eze is a former QPR player and the Palace star watched his side lose 2-0 to local rivals Fulham

Eze was seen sitting in the stands at QPR, having been invited by the club to join the directors’ box for the day. He was pictured not wearing a face mask and appearing not to be strictly observing social distancing guidelines, sitting less than one metre away from another guest. 

Reports on Saturday night claimed the Football Association approved Eze’s visit to the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on Saturday, but the governing body will now open an investigation into why the player was there and why lockdown rules were breached.

Sportsmail learned earlier on Sunday that the FA were scrambling for answers over whether the player was given permission to attend the match.

Clubs are allowed to welcome ten guests in the directors’ box during a game, with only ‘essential personnel’ permitted to attend matches.  

Sportsmail have asked Crystal Palace for comment. Meanwhile, Eze’s representatives declined to comment on the player’s attendance. 

QPR manager Mark Warburton will respond to the breach at a press conference on Monday. 

The visit would go against Government rules to stay at home unless making essential trips

The visit would go against Government rules to stay at home unless making essential trips

Eze (far left) was a guest of QPR, with the socially-distanced visit approved by the FA

Eze (far left) was a guest of QPR, with the socially-distanced visit approved by the FA

FOOTBALL INTRODUCES COVID-19 SNOOP SQUADS 

Premier League snoop squads are to be permitted access to dressing rooms on match days, in a move some fear may bring the integrity of the competition into question.

Sportsmail can reveal that top-flight clubs have been sent through ’emergency guidance’ that includes a host of new, stringent protocols, which have raised concerns among some.

Each club has been told that they should allow a compliance officer or match-day co-ordinator to enter dressing rooms on request to ensure anti-Covid rules are being adhered to.

Officials believe that could cause problems, with team news and tactical information at a greater risk of being leaked.

The Premier League are adamant that will not be the case, with inspectors avoiding times when confidential discussions are taking place.

The significant ramping-up of safety measures, triggered by the surge in coronavirus cases and the rapid spread of the new variant, is felt by the Premier League to be a common-sense approach.

Players, managers and coaching staff have been told to avoid handshakes and hugging — particularly with the opposition. Shirt-swapping is now banned, and clubs have been warned  the snoop squads will apply a ‘more robust policy to reporting any breaches’. 

Substitutes must now wear face coverings unless they are warming up, along with physios and medical staff.

‘I cannot imagine managers being too happy with having a stranger in the dressing room as they are announcing their team and giving out instructions on the opposition,’ said one insider.

‘We get why measures have to be stepped up but this feels a little unrealistic.’

Clubs on away trips will have to allow officials to inspect coaches, trains and planes, and they have been advised that, if travelling by road, they should use three coaches to allow for social distancing on board. 

Asked about Eze’s attendance at Loftus Road on Saturday night, QPR boss Warburton said: ‘I’ve no idea whether he broke protocols or not. You’d have to ask our health and safety officer because that’s above my pay-grade.

‘I want to talk about the game. What other players do in their own time, I can’t comment on that. It’s not my area of expertise. Far from it.’   

England Under 21 winger Eze joined Palace from QPR for a £20million transfer fee over the summer after impressing in the Championship with the Hoops. 

A potential breach of lockdown rules would not sit well with Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson who made it clear to his players that no further breaches of Government coronavirus guidelines will be accepted after captain Luka Milivojevic broke the rules on New Year’s Eve.

Milivojevic issued an apology on Wednesday after his household mixed with Fulham forward Aleksandar Mitrovic and his family.     

Hodgson was furious that his captain was caught breaking the UK’s coronavirus rules and that the Serbian would be punished internally. 

‘We condemn it, we certainly apologise for it,’ said the Palace manager following Palace’s first match since New Year’s Eve. ‘I’m certain Luka will as well. As far as I’m concerned he should take responsibility for that.

‘It’s an internal matter and we will deal with it, but there’s literally nothing positive I can say on the matter.’

Meanwhile, Mitrovic’s actions came amid a coronavirus outbreak at Fulham which forced the postponement of the Cottagers’ matches with Burnley and Tottenham over the festive period. 

Premier League clubs have also seen security risks tightened on a matchday after outbreaks in several clubs across England.

Top-flight clubs have been sent through ’emergency guidance’ that includes a host of new, stringent protocols, which have raised concerns among some.

Each club has been told that they should allow a compliance officer or match-day co-ordinator to enter dressing rooms on request to ensure anti-Covid rules are being adhered to. 

Several fixtures across the Premier League, EFL and FA Cup competitions have been suspended due to these outbreaks. 

Earlier this week, the Premier League has revealed 40 new Covid cases in the latest round of testing – more than double the previous week and the highest figure yet recorded.  

Eze's QPR visit comes after Palace captain Luka Milivojevic (left) broke lockdown rules on New Year's Eve with Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic (right)

Eze’s QPR visit comes after Palace captain Luka Milivojevic (left) broke lockdown rules on New Year’s Eve with Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic (right)

Eagles manager Roy Hodgson (above) was left furious after his captain broke the rules

Eagles manager Roy Hodgson (above) was left furious after his captain broke the rules

Milivojevic, Mitrovic and potentially Eze are not the only top-flight players in English football to have been seen breaking the lockdown rules over Christmas.

Tottenham trio Sergi Reguilon, Erik Lamela and Giovani Lo Celso were spotted celebrating Christmas under one roof with their families – along with West Ham midfielder Manuel Lanzini and his relatives. 

Lockdown restrictions over Christmas banned the indoor mixing of households, with Hammers player Lanzini posting an image of their celebrations on Instagram.  

Spurs' Reguilon, Lamela and Lo Celso also broke lockdown rules over Christmas with Lanzini

Spurs’ Reguilon, Lamela and Lo Celso also broke lockdown rules over Christmas with Lanzini 

All four players publicly apologised for their actions on social media with the three Spurs players fined by the club and were reminded of their responsibilities. 

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho even gave Spurs left-back Reguilon a Portuguese piglet as a gift as he believed the Spaniard would be spending Christmas Day on his own. 

Lo Celso is currently struggling with a hamstring injury so would not have been involved in Tottenham’s on-pitch activities anyway, though Lamela and Reguilon have both been dropped from the Spurs starting line-up since Christmas.

Mourinho mysteriously refused to go into detail as to why Lamela was not named in the matchday squad for last week’s Carabao Cup semi-final with Brentford.

West Ham midfielder Lanzini announced earlier this week that he will be donating to a London foodbank to try and make up for his actions. 

Benjamin Mendy (left) admitted to breaking the rules by hosting a New Year's Eve party

Benjamin Mendy (left) admitted to breaking the rules by hosting a New Year’s Eve party

Manchester City are also investigating the actions of their defender Benjamin Mendy on New Year’s Eve after the Frenchman admitted to hosting a party that night. 

A spokesman for Mendy said last week: ‘Benjamin and his partner allowed a chef and two friends of his partner to attend his property for a dinner party on New Year’s Eve.

‘Ben accepts that this is a breach of Covid-19 protocols and is sorry for his actions in this matter. Ben has had a Covid test and is liaising with Manchester City about this.’

The player was included in the matchday squad for both of City’s matches since New Year’s Eve, though started each game from the substitutes’ bench. 

FOOTBALL’S COVID PROTOCOLS

  • Players, managers and backroom staff are tested for Covid-19 twice a week in the Premier League. After ditching mandatory testing this season, EFL clubs will return to twice weekly testing on January 11 after a rise in cases.
  • Players, managers and coaching staff have been reminded to ‘avoid handshakes and hugging’ during goal celebrations by the PFA
  • Stars have also been told to remain socially distanced from team-mates and opponents where possible, while swapping shirts at the end of a game is banned.
  • Substitutes must sit socially distanced and new rules will mean they – along with physios and medical staff – must wear face masks when not warming up on the touchline.
  • Top-flight clubs must use three separate coaches to transport players and staff to games in order to increase social distancing, while a risk-assessed travel plan must be sent to Premier League chiefs before every game.
  • Players and staff at Premier League clubs will use clinical passports to gain entry. These will be inspected by the division’s compliance officers. 
  • Premier League clubs are allowed just 10 guests from each side in the directors’ box during a game, with only essential personnel permitted to attend matches. 
  • Players at all levels of the EFL have been banned from taking showers after training unless they live more than an hour away from their club’s base.
  • EFL players must also arrive in their training kit to avoid mixing in the changing room before they begin a session. 
  • Club canteens and restaurants will also be closed at EFL clubs, although players will be able to take food on a ‘grab-and-go’ basis.
  • In the Premier League, canteens will only be open on the day before matchday and matchday itself in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19. 
  • Access to indoor areas at Premier League and EFL clubs has also been restricted, with players and staff banned from holding indoor meetings. 
  • Premier League clubs have been told to let a compliance officer or match-day co-ordinator enter dressing rooms to ensure anti-Covid rules are being followed by players and staff.
  • The amount of time players can spend getting medical and physio treatment is also being restricted, as was the case in Project Restart.
  • Premier League clubs will face investigations if they suffer a coronavirus outbreak in order to ‘identify any mitigating actions that should be taken’. 

 

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