England's Covid jab rebels face mounting pressure after FIFA statement

Girlfriend of England star John Stones reposts anti-vaxx message online as Three Lions players refusing Covid vaccines come under pressure after FIFA urged all footballers to get jabbed

  • Five of Gareth Southgate’s players have snubbed doses, it emerged last week
  • Qatar World Cup organisers may ban all unvaccinated players from competing
  • Now governing body FIFA makes first clear statement of its kind on the issue 

The partner of England star John Stones has reposted anti-vaxx messages on Instagram – as FIFA announced for the first time that it encourages Covid vaccinations.

Pressure is now growing on the Three Lions players who have refused the Covid jab so far, after it emerged five internationals – including three who helped the team reach the Euro 2020 final – have not been inoculated.

It is not known whether Manchester City defender Stones is one of those, but there are fears posts by his girlfriend, Olivia Naylor, to 45,000 Instagram followers will help dissuade others from having the vaccine.

The beauty clinic boss applauded a recent post highlighting comments from basketball star Jonathan Isaacs, who claimed he’d be protected from the virus by natural immunity.

It comes after reports suggested organisers of next year’s World Cup in Qatar were planning to ban all unvaccinated players from competing.

Now FIFA has made the first clear statement of its kind on the issue, with a spokesman saying: ‘We encourage COVID-19 vaccinations and endorse the World Health Organization’s position: safe, fair, and equitable access is critical in all countries. Players should not receive priority access to vaccines.’

Sportsmail revealed last week that there is widespread opposition to vaccines among Premier League footballers, with almost two-thirds of top-flight players yet to be fully jabbed, and many refusing altogether. 

Club officials are complaining that dressing rooms have been ‘polluted’ by senior players spreading conspiracy theories involving Bill Gates, infertility and the power of vitamins. 

The Three Lions travel to Andorra on Friday and San Marino for World Cup qualifiers next month, but neither of these countries are on the red list.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp are among the high profile figures who have spoken of the importance of getting inoculated in recent days. 

Ex-footballer and former FA chief Mark Palios also spoke on the matter this morning.

There are fears posts by Olivia Naylor (pictured) to 45,000 Instagram followers will dissuade others from having the vaccine

It is not known whether Manchester City defender Stones (pictured) is one of the players who has refused the jab

His girlfriend applauded a recent post (pictured) highlighting comments from basketball star Jonathan Isaacs, who claimed he’d be protected from the virus by natural immunity

England’s players pose for a team photo before the UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying group A match between England and Montenegro at Wembley

He told GMB: ‘I’m not a medical guy but I concur with the view that the evidence seems to support that vaccinations help in controlling the situation.  

‘I know there’s been the question of whether or not they can have a sporting ‘get out of jail free card’ in as much as you can put people in a bubble in a competition like a UEFA final. 

‘But when you’re talking day to day in the EFL, it’s very difficult because those players are then going back out into the community. 

‘What we’ve done here is try to persuade players and advise players as regards the efficacy of taking the vaccine. 

‘Players have looked at it from the extent to which they would be restricted in doing what they want to do and gradually, gradually the numbers have increased, but I have to say it does appear that’s due to the fact they will feel their lives are being restricted in terms of what they do.’

He was joined on the show by football journalist Alison Bender, after it was revealed just 35% of players have taken up the vaccine.

She added: ‘It really surprised me, those figures. The problem is no one is really talking about it, so we don’t know why, everyone feels they’re not allowed to ask, it’s one of those really awkward situations. 

‘For me, I believe those players have a duty of care. We all know they’re young, fit players, probably very unlikely to be seriously ill with Covid, but what I see on a day-to-day basis as a journalist who goes to football clubs, we see kit men, we see the chefs, the player liaison officers, the press officers, the reporters like me who go and interview them. 

‘Now the players are actually coming inside for interviews, we used to interview them on the pitch. Yes, the players might say I don’t want to be forced into doing something, but the moment it starts affecting those around you, suddenly we need to start doing something about it. 

‘We’re hearing about Jonathan Van-Tam and other epidemiologists and scientists going and trying to explain to people because I’d like to know why the players aren’t having it and I don’t think we do know the reasons at the moment. 

‘It was interesting to hear Mark say he’s giving the players around him as much information as possible but I feel we need to go a step further than that. 

‘I love that [Jurgen] Klopp has spoken out about this. Maybe some players will start to really think because perhaps the reasons behind it might be very simple reasons which could be overcome with a little bit of education.’

England football manager Gareth Southgate claims he does not know which of his players are refusing to be vaccinated – but expects them to be ‘outed’ when the squad travels abroad

It comes after the British government last week agreed to ease strict quarantine requirements to allow fully vaccinated players to train and feature in matches on their return to England from red-list countries, which includes all of South America. 

Those players who don’t want to be vaccinated would still be sent to spend 10 days in government hotel quarantine when flying back to England.

‘We acknowledge this decision does not help every player,’ FIFA said, ‘and we remain committed to further improving the situation for upcoming windows and joining discussions to explain more about the many measures we are putting in place to reduce the risks of COVID transmission into the community as a result of player travel.’

Many Premier League clubs blocked players from going to red-list countries during the international window last month. Players who did go missed games for their clubs as a result.

‘We believe this is a much more desirable solution to the situation that players faced in September,’ FIFA added.

The British government spoke out against players not getting vaccinated on Sunday. Only seven of the 20 Premier League clubs have more than half of their squads fully vaccinated, according to the most recent data.

Health Secretary Mr Javid told Times Radio: ‘I would just appeal to these people, whether they are footballers, whoever it is… that the vaccines are working.

‘Help protect yourself and protect those around you. They’ve made a conscious choice (not to be vaccinated). It is disappointing, of course it is.

‘They are role models in society. People, especially young people, I think will look up to them and they should recognize that and the difference that can make in terms of encouraging others.’

The most assertive plea for players to get vaccinated has come this weekend from Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

He said: ‘I don’t take the vaccination only to protect me. I take the vaccination to protect all the people around me.’




Klopp said 99% of the Liverpool squad had been jabbed as he compared the situation to ‘drink-driving’.

He added: ‘We were all probably in a situation where we had a beer or two and thought ‘I can drive’. But this law is not there for protecting me, it is there for protecting all the other people because I am (drunk) and want to drive a car. And we accept that as a law.

‘We all know alcohol is bad for our body but we still drink it. With the vaccination we assume it is not good for our body. Most specialists tell us the vaccination is the solution for the situation in this moment.’

A Government warning last month that compulsory certification could be introduced at one week’s notice had sparked alarm as the Premier’s League’s vaccination crisis shows no sign of abating. 

The League remain concerned as the limited nature of many clubs’ vaccination programmes increases the chances of damaging Covid outbreaks, but they have been reassured after receiving more details of the Government’s winter plan.

England boss Gareth Southgate claims he does not know which of his players are refusing to be vaccinated – but expects them to be ‘outed’ when the squad travels abroad. 

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