Four Premier League players from Tottenham and West Ham broke English lockdown laws by gathering inside a house together over Christmas just after the government had tightened coronavirus restrictions in response to a new transmissible variant. The revelation came as the league was forced to call off a third game this week, with a worsening COVID-19 outbreak at Fulham leading to Sundays game at Burnley being postponed.
Tottenham and West Ham condemned the inter-household mixing by their players, which was revealed by a photo posted on social media.
Tottenham trio Erik Lamela, Sergio Reguilon and Giovani Lo Celso were pictured close together with West Hams Manuel Lanzini and other people inside a home.
The restrictions imposed in the London area prevent people from visiting another house, apart from someone in a support bubble.
"We are extremely disappointed and strongly condemn this image showing some of our players with family and friends together at Christmas particularly as we know the sacrifices everybody around the country made to stay safe over the festive period," Tottenham said in a statement.
None of the three players started Saturday’s match against Leeds, although Reguilon was on the bench.
"The rules are clear, there are no exceptions, and we regularly remind all our players and staff about the latest protocols and their responsibilities to adhere and set an example,” Tottenham said. "The matter will be dealt with internally. West Ham expressed disappointment with Lanzini and said he had been "strongly reminded of his responsibilities” to following the protocols.
The controversy comes amid questions about whether the Premier League should suspend the competition like last season during the pandemic.
Additional coronavirus infections were detected after further testing at Fulham following the postponement of Wednesday’s game against Tottenham.
Following Fulham's request to rearrange the Burnley fixture, the Premier Leagues board has taken into consideration further independent medical advice and decided to postpone the game due to the exceptional circumstances of the ongoing outbreak at the club, the league said.
“With the health of players and staff the priority, the League and Fulham will agree a further action plan to control the outbreak to allow the club to resume their season safely. Players and staff will now be retested as part of a revised testing schedule.”