Footballers’ union the PFA has urged players to observe lockdown rules as a matter of “vital importance” following a number of high-profile breaches.
Stars from Manchester City, Tottenham and West Ham have attracted criticism for holding social gatherings over the festive period.
The PFA’s warning comes as Covid-19 cases soar in the Premier League and increasingly threaten fixtures in lower divisions.
“Following the announcement of a third national lockdown, the PFA would like to reinforce the message that players must follow the current Covid-19 rules and club protocols as a matter of vital importance,” the PFA said.
“In a close-knit football environment, the ramifications of any rule breaches are potentially hugely damaging for fellow players, clubs and the game as a whole.
“Although prospects are brighter due to the vaccine’s imminent rollout, players must continue to take the lead and act responsibly and professionally.
“Between now and the end of the season, we ask that you continue to take personal responsibility and follow the lockdown rules, without exception.”
Stars caught out as cases rise in Premier League
City defender Benjamin Mendy was pictured celebrating New Year with a dinner party. The evening is thought to have involved two guests and a chef from outside his household.
Tottenham’s Erik Lamela, Sergio Reguilon and Giovani Lo Celso also apparently breached lockdown rules by gathering over the festive period. West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini was also pictured at the same party.
Positive Covid tests in the Premier League shot up to 40 in the week from 28 December to 3 January. That figure equated to 1.74 per cent of players and staff tested, up from 1.22 per cent the previous week.
The PFA added: “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen that players have a unique position to inspire and influence society positively.
“Your compliance with the national restrictions sets the right example to millions of fans and young people.
“Following the rules is also the best way to protect your loved ones, your colleagues and their families from harm.”
FA Cup third round facing disruption
This weekend’s FA Cup third round ties are already being affected by the rise in Covid cases.
Southampton’s fixture with Shrewsbury is under serious threat after an outbreak at the League One side.
Derby, meanwhile, are set to field a team comprised wholly of under-23 and under-18 players against Chorley.
Derby were forced to suspend first-team training after a number of cases among players and staff earlier this week.
Domestic rugby has seen its recent schedule badly affected by cancellations due to Covid outbreaks.
Five fixtures have been called off in the Premiership since Christmas.
Elite sport is currently allowed to continue despite England entering a third national lockdown this week.