The coronavirus has quickly spread across the world, with a spike in cases in Europe – Italy especially – and a significant jump in a number of other countries too, including the USA.
The virus should, of course, be taken very seriously: it’s not just a typical winter flu nor does it affect just older generations. Everyone needs to play their part in ensuring the spread is limited and – eventually – stopped.
But what about us referees who are still going about officiating matches?
We need to make sure we follow the most basic of recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO), and these include:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough
On the football field it’s not always easy to identify those who have a fever and/or cough nor prevent close contact, but referees can follow a few basic tips to ensure the safety of everyone on the field:
- It’s best practice not to do the pre-game handshake with players, coaches nor with your Assistant Referees. For example, the Premier League has already banned the pre-match handshake protocol
- If a player is down injured it should be up to the club medic to treat them and take them off the field – do not lift them up nor get to close (see next suggestion)
- Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing – but also as a general precaution, try to maintain this distance from all players / officials / ARs, especially during breaks in the game / half-time
- Don’t share your whistle with other referees, nor any other accessory that could lead to the spread of droplets
- Avoid spitting as much as possible (as per official advice, when an infected person coughs or sneezes, they shed droplets of saliva, mucus, or other bodily fluids. If any of those droplets fall on you—or if you touch them and then, say, touch your face—you can become infected as well)
These tips are mainly common sense and do not represent nor replace medical advice. Please stay safe and make sure you read advice from reputable sources, such as the WHO, or consult your doctor.