Premier League players not fully vaccinated against coronavirus face being excluded from plans to relax the UK’s red-list rules for next month’s World Cup qualifiers.
Telegraph Sport has been told a deal from the Government could be announced as early as Thursday which would only allow double-jabbed players returning from international duty in a red-list country to train and play matches while still undergoing 10 days supervised quarantine.
Telegraph Sport revealed last week how the scale of vaccine hesitancy among footballers had complicated talks over allowing those called up for fixtures in red-list destinations to avoid isolating for a week and a half in a designated hotel upon their return.
Those talks saw the Premier League propose affected players instead spend five days in club bubbles where their Covid status could be checked.
But Telegraph Sport has been told that has been rejected by the Government, which has made a counter-offer that would see those not fully vaccinated excluded from any easing.
It would also mean those eligible spending the full 10 days quarantining in a secured private residence or hotel – with 24-hour security – which they would only be allowed to leave to train and play matches.
They would be permitted no guests or visitors other than Public Health England, with meals to be dropped at the door, and would be required to use private, individual transport going to and from training and games.
Limiting the easing of red-list rules to the double-jabbed could see teams refuse to release unvaccinated players next week.
That would risk a repeat of a stand-off ahead of this month’s international break that nearly saw Fifa ban players from turning out for their clubs.
The exclusion of the unvaccinated from any easing of red-list rules would mirror plans by the Premier League to do the same when loosening its own strict Covid-19 protocols.
The world’s richest league wrote to its 20 members last week informing them of proposals to “reward” clubs with high immunisation rates in a bid to boost the low take-up of the jab among players.
As revealed by the Telegraph Sport, data collected by the Premier League at the start of the season showed almost two-thirds of clubs had less than half their squads fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, there was “frustration” and “exasperation” last night at some of the teams caught up in the club-versus-country crisis.
A source at one of those affected told Telegraph Sport: “This has gone on for over a month now. The Premier League tells us every day or two that they expect a solution by the close of play only for days to pass with nothing new.
“Clubs have offered measures within their gift to make this possible – examples of which are private planes, house quarantine on return etc – yet it doesn’t progress.
“When Michael Gove wanted to go to the Champions League final, he was able to find some trial scheme to be a part of and serve no quarantine – albeit to an amber country. But this was back in May. It’s a mess, in short.”
Telegraph Sport has been told of similar frustration at the impasse at the Professional Footballers’ Association.
A halving of the quarantine period for players returning from red-list countries may still not prevent many of them missing their clubs’ next match after the upcoming international break.
Brazil, Argentina and other countries in the Americas play three matches in that period, the last of which kick-off in the early hours of the morning of Friday, October 15, UK time.
That would deprive many Premier League clubs of some of their best players when they return to action the following afternoon.
The same club source said talks to avoid this could not begin until the quarantine issue was resolved.
Nuno Espirito Santo on Wednesday became the first manager to voice concerns publicly, calling for “protection” to avoid a repeat of a saga that saw Tottenham Hotspur’s South American players forced to spend 10 days in Croatia earlier this month.
Nuno said Spurs “cannot afford” to be without Argentina pair Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso, who missed the club’s defeat at Crystal Palace that ended their winning start to the Premier League season.
“What we expect is what we are concerned about: the governing bodies making a decision that can protect the clubs in this international break,” said Nuno.
“It is very difficult to say no to a national team. It has never been the case before. We are facing this situation through the pandemic. What we want is protection. Us, as clubs, we need decisions that protect us because we want our players in the national team and available for us also.
“Everybody knows there are conversations going on within all the governing bodies to solve the situation. What we cannot afford is to have our players out again.”