SAMUEL: Klopp is right to say 'own your behaviour' with Covid jabs

MARTIN SAMUEL: Jurgen Klopp is right to say ‘own your behaviour’ on the Covid-19 vaccine… with freedom of choice comes responsibility

  • Last week Jurgen Klopp was outspoken on the topic of the Covid-19 vaccine
  • Liverpool’s German boss likened the rejecting of the jab to drink-driving
  • Klopp lost his mother to the virus so is entitled to feel strongly on the subject 

You can have freedom of choice but not freedom from consequence. Footballers and other athletes, like the rest of Britain, may be coming to understand this now.

So to get the vaccine or not: that’s your freedom of choice.

To be told you cannot play in the World Cup, the Ashes, the Australian Open or to be placed in quarantine for 10 days everywhere you go if you are unvaccinated, however — well, that’s the consequence. Other people have freedom of choice, too, you see.

When Nigel Farage visited seven petrol garages without success last week, before his car was hit by a van. Consequences again.

Sitting in those queues, wondering whether offering HGV drivers £70,000-a-year might just have an impact on prices down the line, Nigel and his allies will soon all be free to enjoy the choices they have made.

So Jurgen Klopp was right. Freedom has limits. The limit of consequence. 

Jurgen Klopp was typically outspoken when asked about the subject of Covid-19 vaccinations

For example, we all have freedom of speech. This does not include, however, the right to randomly shout ‘fire’ in a crowded public space, unnecessarily causing panic, perhaps a human stampede, and possibly fatal injury. Do that and you may be charged with manslaughter.

Gary Hart, a motorist, fell asleep at the wheel and inadvertently caused the Selby train crash which killed 10 people in 2001.

It was discovered he had barely slept all night and had spent five hours talking to a woman he met on the internet. That was his choice. As a result people died; the consequence being he went to prison for five years.

Your freedom is not allowed to have a human toll. This is why Klopp equated vaccine refusal to drink driving. As his mother died from Covid, Klopp is more than entitled to feel deeply about this subject.

Recalling his reaction to supporters reaching out for high-fives before the game with Atletico Madrid, the week before the first lockdown – ‘put your hands away, you f*****g idiots,’ he snapped – one suspects he has always been receptive to the seriousness of the pandemic.

He has sympathy for the players over long quarantines, but little for those who have spread anti-vaccination misinformation and influenced the impressionable and young inside dressing rooms.

Football clubs with high levels of vaccination often have strong characters like Klopp, Thomas Frank or the hierarchy at Wolves at the helm.

As his mother died from Covid, Klopp is more than entitled to feel deeply about this subject

And now it gets interesting, because football’s indulgence of players may come with significant consequences that impact on teams, team-mates and their chances of winning.

Maybe, if they don’t care about protecting the health of the wider community, players might wish to protect their colleagues in a professional sense, their win bonuses and their reputations.

First, there is the chance that individual attitudes to vaccination may be revealed by the Government’s policy on red-list quarantine.

Those who are vaccinated will enjoy more leniency than those who are not, potentially identifying the refusers. And really, so what? Your choice, own it. Yet nobody wants to do that these days. Not the Government. Not the architects of Government policy.

Nobody owns the fuel crisis, nobody owns the gas crisis, nobody owns shortages, or stagflation or why the Prime Minister suddenly needs to ‘save Christmas’ every year. And now nobody wants to own, or even reveal, their vaccination status. Why? It’s surely not a decision taken lightly. A lot of thought went into it.

It can’t just be because Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend in Trinidad got it and reported a case of balloon balls. It can’t just be because you’re fit, or young, or take vitamins, so nothing bad could ever happen to you. It can’t be because your girlfriend worries your bits will stop working, or some basketball player isn’t getting it done. Because that would be really stupid.

A person here pictured receiving a dose of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

Ultimately, at many clubs, players are over-indulged and perhaps we simply need to stop making excuses for these sizeable anti-vaccination contingents. Yes, as Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said, there are democratic issues.

Footballers are no different from the wider public there, and have the right to the same freedoms.

Yet we cannot keep indulging them the lame excuses of misinformation, as if they are incapable of distinguishing between qualified medical professionals and cranks and conspiracy theorists.

Footballers have been flattered with personal speeches from deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam, had the issues explained time and again. They have been treated as special cases due to their influential role in communities.

If there is still a large group unvaccinated it is not because they have been fed fake, anti-vaccination news, as sports minister Nigel Huddleston suggested. It is because they are too selfish, dumb or stubborn to listen to experts in the field.

Still, your choice, your call. But others can make choices. And if that choice is the state of Victoria, or Qatar, refusing admission to the unvaccinated, that is their right.

This was also Klopp’s point. He said he had the right to ask a taxi driver if he had been drinking and, if receiving an unsatisfactory answer, had the right not to take the journey.

By the same token, host countries can ask straight questions of athletes and grant entry accordingly. Freedom of choice but not freedom from consequence. In other words: take responsibility.

That’s all Klopp asked.

No minister, a football regulator could NEVER be truly independent 

As predicted, the much-anticipated Government regulator for football is going to have rather a lot on his or her plate.

On Thursday, a petition was presented to Downing Street calling for an independent regulator to tackle football’s dementia scandal; and the case of the Newcastle takeover is also one it is believed would be laid at a regulator’s door.

That is as well as overseeing the finances of 92 football clubs, to ensure none of them are ever in jeopardy again. Perhaps the regulator will appoint a regulator to address the tragedy of brain disease. 

On Thursday, a petition was presented to Downing Street calling for an independent regulator to tackle football’s dementia scandal. Pictured: Prime Minister Boris Johnson 

As for Newcastle, why would a Government-appointed independent regulator be independent of the Government’s wish to keep in with Saudi Arabia? We already know that Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, pressured Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of Lilliput, to correct the Premier League’s decision.

Failure to intervene, he said, could damage relations with Saudi Arabia. Johnson immediately put Edward Lister, Lilliput’s special envoy to the Gulf, on the case.

Now, insert a Government-appointed regulator into the middle of this. Might that not be exactly the type of person Lister would meet privately, in one of those gentlemen’s club conversations that were captured so perfectly in Yes, Minister, in which it was explained that it would be of great benefit to the Prime Minister and the country if certain informal discussions took place involving a full and frank exchange of views out of which there arose a series of proposals, which on examination proved to indicate certain promising lines of inquiry, which, when pursued, lead to the realisation that the alternative courses of action might, in fact, in certain circumstances, be susceptible to discreet modification, leading to a reappraisal of the original areas of difference and pointing the way to encouraging possibilities of compromise and cooperation, which, if bilaterally implemented with appropriate give and take on both sides might, if the climate were right, have a reasonable probability at the end of the day of leading, rightly or wrongly, to a mutually satisfactory resolution in which the Saudis bought Newcastle.

There is no such thing as an independent Government appointment.

Southgate’s Sancho own goal 

Sometimes a man can be a little too straight. 

Jadon Sancho is having a difficult time getting going at Manchester United – and it is perfectly understandable that Gareth Southgate decided it would serve no purpose dropping him from England’s squad. 

Admitting that he doesn’t deserve to be included on current form and is pretty much only in as a morale-booster to show belief in his talent, however, probably defeats that object.

Jadon Sancho’s Manchester United career is yet to take off with the youngster struggling

Gareth Southgate may come to regret publicly stating that Sancho doesn’t deserve his pick

No easy solutions… 

The Sports Council Equality Group report into transgender participation in sport confirmed that there are lasting physical advantages from going through male puberty, that are not lost even with testosterone suppression. They suggested new categories to preserve fairness in female competition: women’s, and open.

Yet the open category has existed in many sports for many years but sensitivity around inclusion forbids the SCEG acknowledging what it has always been called: men’s.

And so we return to fairness via a different route. To have transgender women competing against women isn’t fair and in some sports potentially dangerous. But the same could be said of transgender women competing in an open, or male, competition.

Laurel Hubbard, the transgender weightlifter representing New Zealand at the Olympics, had a best lift in major competition of 285 in the +87kg category. 

Laurel Hubbard had a best lift in major competition in Tokyo of 285 in the +87kg category

That would not have got her to Tokyo. Cameron McTaggart, who represented New Zealand in the 81kg competition and came 11th, lifted 315.

So, it’s a dilemma. Hubbard has an unfair advantage over women but would struggle for selection in open competition. That might not be true of all transgender athletes but it would be a setback for many. 

Of course, getting picked for the Olympics is no human right. Nobody is saying Hubbard couldn’t compete; but would find it harder to win. Ultimately, though, the integrity of women’s sport is worth preserving and that must be acknowledged. But there is no easy solution.

Crisis, what crisis? 

With Harry Maguire, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James all unavailable, England are short defensively for the upcoming internationals. 

Just as well, then, that Gareth Southgate could probably get by at centre back against Hungary, and his mum could do the job against Andorra. Crisis averted.

So many clues to 72-1 Arc shock 

Torquator Tasso won the most eagerly anticipated Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in years, priced at 72-1. 

He was one of only four horses going into the race on the back of a Group One victory – the Grosser Preis von Baden, which is a fair Arc indicator – and collected another Group One event in challenging conditions. 

Rene Piechulek, the jockey riding Torquator Tasso, was Germany’s champion apprentice

Rene Piechulek, the jockey, was Germany’s champion apprentice, and previous German Arc winners have also been underrated and given long odds. Yet we can always see the winner once it’s past the post. 

The trick is doing it before the off. This is why you rarely meet a miserable bookmaker, or a poor one.

Premier League stature shown 

It could be argued that Saracens are the Manchester United of club rugby. 

The most incredible aspect of their takeover deal, therefore, is the sum involved: £32million, or roughly what Manchester United paid for Victor Lindelof. 

Considering what is unfolding at Barcelona and Real Madrid, Premier League football truly is one of the great success stories of British industry. The Government interfere at their peril.

What a performance… 

Rick Parry, fresh from trying to stitch up the majority of Premier League clubs, now knows what he needs from them to make his own EFL project work: £750m. 

He really should take this act over the West End. I, for one, would be in the front row every night, howling.

Rick Parry knows what he needs from the top-flight to make his own EFL project work: £750m

Rowing ramifications 

Jurgen Grobler, the rowing coach whose absence in Tokyo coincided with Great Britain’s failure to win a gold medal for the first time in 41 years, will now work with France going into 2024.

It is a decision that suggests Grobler was forced out, rather than eased willingly into retirement. 

And we could be dealing with the ramifications for some time yet.

Nuno’s Tottenham deserve more trust 

Last week, the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust demanded an emergency meeting with chairman Daniel Levy and the board.

They were concerned about the club’s direction. They wanted to know about the short-term strategy, the long-term strategy.

They wanted to know how success would be measured and the maintenance of something defined as the club’s ‘DNA’. Presumably, that’s the magical quality that has earned them one trophy, the 2008 League Cup, this century, no European trophies since 1984 and no league titles since 1961.

After beating Aston Villa, Tottenham sit just two points off Manchester City, who are third

Anyway, as of this weekend after beating a decent Aston Villa side, Tottenham sit two points off Manchester City, who are third. They beat the champions too on the first day of the season and kept Harry Kane against all expectations, even if he is playing like a man still feeling the disappointment of not leaving. 

New manager Nuno Espirito Santo has had just seven league matches to make his mark. It isn’t perfect but then it never was going to be.

It is very hard to stay inside England’s top four as considerably bigger and more storied clubs have discovered. That’s why it’s a great league. 

‘We await their response,’ the Trust told members, grandly. One imagines Levy may rework his own patient transfer market strategy here, and leave them to wait.

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