CHELSEA’S Champions League game at Lille and England’s Six Nations showdown in Paris look set to be moved to a neutral country after the French government vowed a Covid crackdown.
In a surprise move, French government sources have briefed that any athlete coming to compete in the country will have to be vaccinated to be allowed to enter a sports arena.
That would immediately impact France’s scheduled Six Nations against Italy, Ireland and England.
But it also would prevent Chelsea’s unvaccinated players from taking part in the Champions League last 16-second leg in March.
Uefa is currently drafting a new “Annex J” to the current Champions League regulations, to apply for the knock-out phase of the competition.
That will be specifically designed to deal with ongoing Covid situations across Europe in a bid to ensure the tournament remains on schedule, with a final draft due before the end of this month.
But precedent suggests that clubs will be entitled to select all eligible players and that local rules preventing them from doing so will see matches moved.
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Chelsea are understood to have a handful of unvaccinated members of their first-team squad and the Stamford Bridge outfit will have the right to argue that being prevented from selecting them is a breach of regulations and natural justice.
The law change would also impact the glamour tie between PSG and Real Madrid, with the French champions due to host the first leg on February 15.
But there will also be an issue for England rugby union coach Eddie Jones.
It is understood that at least five members of his likely Six Nations squad – including Exeter centre Henry Slade – remain unvaccinated and have indicated they will not be jabbed.
That will put pressure on Six Nations organisers to step in, a situation which would be all the more pressing were March 19 showdown, due to be played at the Stade de France, a title decider.
The change of heart by the French was a major surprise after it had been signalled the country was ready to lift its current strict Covid regulations and grant an exemption for sport.
Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu hinted on January 7 that a “health bubble” would be created for major sporting events, although it was unclear how that would apply to individual sports such as the French Open tennis at Roland Garros.
But the new clampdown would appear to apply to all sport, making a further blow to Djokovic after his Aussie Open visa row and eventual deportation.
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