COVID Rule Books out the (transfer) window

Week Notes I January 8 2021

Maggie Murphy
3 min readJan 8, 2021

Two things on my mind this week —rules and rules.

Covid rule violations

Last month in a single incident, a small number of players broke COVID rules. We disciplined the players involved immediately (although the wrath of some of their teammates would likely have been enough).

In comparison to the international breaks we’ve seen players from other clubs take, the rules they broke (involving households mixing in an indoor space) pale into comparison. I cannot tell you how frustrating it has been as the club’s COVID Officer to hear that other clubs haven’t enforced the rules as strongly as we have, not just in these last weeks but in previous months. Or that they haven’t conveyed to their players, or that their players have not understood the potential implications of their actions (on their own short and long-term health, on others’ health, on the league, on their opponents, on the fans they inspire and influence day in, day out).

It’s equally frustrating that the rules as to what permits a postponement or causes a forfeit or for a game to proceed have lacked clarity and have taken so long to be defined (and remain guidelines, not rules). Furthermore, it’s not clear whether and how goalposts could be further changed as the league progresses. What happens towards the end of the season when there will be increasing pressure to end on the same date, at the same time? What if an unlucky club has COVID cases at that time — will they be forced to forfeit to tie the league up with a nice bow? Or could we see a long gap between the penultimate and final game for teams that do not have to postpone fixtures so that the league can finish on the same day? Do all clubs have equal clout and influence on these decisions?

As a club since we started testing in July, we have had one single positive COVID result and zero cases of transmission within the squad. I didn’t realise that this would or should be such a cause for pride when we set out on this season, but we have endured sacrifices to realise that, including players not seeing their partners and families for long stretches of time. Of course anything could change, we are next door to Kent, where the new, more infectious strain has emerged. The lack of clarity around rules, and whether goalposts will further shift is unsettling for us, in case we will be an unfortunate victim in the future, should we not be able to hold out against COVID for the full entirety of the season.

Overseas player rules

New rules have come into place to sign players from overseas. The rules have always been strict for non-European players, but now it’s tightened dramatically for players who could land in Lewes, from Dieppe in France within just a couple of hours. The previous system which required non-EU players to have played for their national team 70% of the time over 2 years has now been replaced by an elaborate points based system. Those of us who don’t have a large scouting department (ha), will struggle to be able to do all the checks or find the gaps. More infuriating is that agents don’t know the rules yet either, so we are still being offered players who are totally ineligible, or being encouraged to go to an appeals panel (£5000) or having to explain to the agents the new rules. The purpose of the rules is to increase the number of English Qualified Players playing at the top level. My personal opinion is that English players will benefit hugely from training and playing with overseas players who bring different styles of play and ways of training and can generate new thinking and creativity. England is uniquely placed to attract international talent as well, the more that the WSL and the Championship benefit from increased marketing and visibility.



Maggie Murphy

Chief Executive Officer, Lewes FC. Director of Equal Playing Field. Formerly @anticorruption @minorityrights @amnesty