Premiership players are being “strongly encouraged” to become fully vaccinated by rugby authorities in England with clubs offered incentives in an effort to boost uptake.
Clubs in the Premiership, the Championship and the women’s Premier 15s will all be permitted to relax Covid-19 protocols, end social distancing and the wearing of masks will no longer be compulsory in most settings should they reach the 85% target across the playing squad and staff group, as laid out by the Professional Game Board (PGB).
Neither the Rugby Football Union, nor Premiership Rugby, would comment on how many clubs currently meet the 85% threshold but a similar policy of encouragement has recently been introduced in football amid concerns over vaccine hesitancy. In May, the Exeter and England centre Henry Slade became one of the first high-profile British sportsmen to publicly state he did not plan to have the vaccine.
“The health and safety of everyone involved in the elite game is our priority and we know it is vital we ensure the vast majority of players and management are fully vaccinated as soon as possible,” said the PGB chair Chris Booy.
“It is still a personal choice as to whether you receive a vaccination, but we want to strongly encourage as many players and staff as possible to be vaccinated so that we can proactively contribute as much as possible to the safety of our wider communities and of our players, staff and supporters. Whilst we hope that there will be no need to reverse any of these proposed changes, the PGB will continue to review all [minimum operating standards] in line with government advice.”
Existing testing protocols, which currently require a minimum of two lateral flow tests a week, are set to remain, though in the Premiership the second must now be taken within 24 hours of a match. Masks must also still be worn by players and staff in medical rooms and for a match involving a club which has met the 85% threshold and one which has not, only the club that has is permitted to take advantage of the relaxations.