Since Tottenham Hotspur drew Bulgarian First League side Lokomotiv Plovdiv in the 2nd Qualification Round of the Europa League this morning, a lot of fans have been wondering how exactly that’s going to work in the midst of a pandemic. Bulgaria is a European country, but it’s not on the list of “corridor countries” that is exempt from the required 14-day quarantine period when returning to the UK.
With Spurs playing at Southampton just three days after the trip to Plovdiv, will the players and staff that travel really have to quarantine themselves for two weeks?
Thankfully, the answer appears to be no. Alasdair Gold, writing for football.london, lays the situation out nicely and confirms that none of the Tottenham players or staff will be required to isolate, assuming that they follow all the other COVID-related guidelines related to sport-related travel according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.
“You’ll need to complete the Public Health passenger locator form before you travel back to the UK. You’ll also need to provide written evidence from a United Kingdom or English national governing body for your sport confirming both your status as a domestic elite sportsperson or essential support staff who has travelled to a non exempt country or territory to compete, train or otherwise participate in an elite sports event, and that you will be continuing those activities on your return.
“You will not need to self-isolate for 14 days, but you must observe the Stages One to Four elite sport guidance framework as published by the UK government.”
Premier League footballers are being constantly tested for COVID-19 and are also taking strict precautions when traveling due to the threat of community spread. For a trip such as this one to Bulgaria, it’s very likely that the club will basically create its own “bubble” with very limited access to anything and anyone that isn’t directly football related. It doesn’t mean that they won’t potentially be exposed to COVID, but they certainly won’t be going out afterwards to explore the Plovdiv nightlife or anything.
Having virtual competitions like the Champions League and Europa League would be nigh impossible without some sort of mechanism by which clubs and their support staff can travel and play without fear of quarantine when they return.
Gold also confirmed that the match at the Lokomotiv Stadium will be held without fans behind closed doors.