Drug testing in football will increase to unprecedented levels this season, with the Premier League coming under the greatest scrutiny.
The Football Association, in conjunction with UK Anti-Doping, conducted more than 3,250 tests on professional players last season, and there were two positive results with two further cases under review. But the game’s governing body has promised to raise that total to more than 5,000 over the coming year.
Football has the highest anti-doping budget in all of UK sport and also a far higher number of athletes to test. Figures published this year showed that, in the 2015-16 season, at least 39% of players in the Football League were not tested. The new proposals would double the number of tests taken and the FA is hoping to be seen to be taking the issue seriously.
Tests will continue to be concentrated on the elite level of the sport, with the flexibility to focus more resources on particular individuals or clubs, depending on intelligence.
Professional footballers can be tested at any time or place throughout the year on a “no notice” basis. Tests are conducted on urine and blood and players also maintain a biological passport that records variables in their system over time. Tests are split into two categories, those conducted in competition (ie after a match) and those not.
Clubs are responsible for notifying doping authorities of their players’ whereabouts for out-of-competition testing and a potential change, under review, would see an increase in fines for clubs who fail to meet that obligation. Manchester City and Bournemouth were fined £35,000 each last season after failing to ensure their whereabouts information was accurate.
Players are tested for performance-enhancing drugs and social drugs. Positive tests for the latter do not always result in the player being named, however. The FA has a long-standing approach of preferring rehabilitation in these cases.
Splitting what might previously have been known as football disciplinary matters into two categories – on-field and integrity – the FA looks poised to introduce other regulatory changes this season. Among on‑field matters, game-changing moments of simulation (ie diving) will become subject to retrospective action, just as happens already with violent conduct. On the integrity side there will be extra focus on gambling and the use of social media among players.
On one matter falling in the former category, it has been confirmed John Terry will not face FA charges over the potential for irregular gambling practices after his sentimental substitution in the 26th minute of his final game for Chelsea.
Meanwhile, the English Football League is introducing the new ABBA format for penalty shootouts in its competitions during the 2017-18 season.
Already being given a trial by Uefa, the system is based on the format used in tennis tie-breaks, with the team taking the first kick in each pair of kicks alternating.
The EFL’s trial of the format will apply to this season’s Carabao Cup, Checkatrade Trophy and the play-offs, with the first opportunity for its use coming in the cup’s first round on 8-10 August.
In a statement the EFL’s chief executive, Shaun Harvey, said: “We welcome innovation at the EFL and I am pleased to see that the EFL is able to play its part in an important development for football. IFAB have identified a theory that the current arrangements for penalty kicks potentially provide an unfair advantage to the team taking the first kick, so we are keen to see if the new system has an impact on one of the most discussed issues in football.”
The EFL has also confirmed that the Scunthorpe chief executive, James Rodwell, will continue to represent the league on the Football Association’s board of directors. The 46-year-old joined the FA board last year as one of the EFL’s two representatives but, after the FA’s well-publicised governance reforms, that has now been cut to one director for the EFL and one for the Premier League, with the leagues jointly choosing a third director.
This means the Burton Albion non-executive director, Jez Moxey, must stand down as the EFL’s second FA board member, although he will remain as one of the EFL’s six representatives on the FA Council. Moxey will be joined on the FA Council by Fleetwood Town’s Steve Curwood and the controversial chief executive of Charlton Athletic, Katrien Meire.