England players sing the national anthem before fixture
England play San Marino, Albania and Poland in World Cup qualifiers later this month

England manager Gareth Southgate says footballers should be offered the coronavirus vaccine soon because of the risks of playing during the pandemic.

In the UK more than 25 million people have been given a vaccine dose – almost half the adult population.

Footballers have not been been offered a jab but many have travelled across Europe and internationally for matches.

Southgate said football had a “responsibility” to players who “we are asking to keep playing”.

“We are moving to the stage where we are asking athletes to put themselves in situations where they are more likely to catch the virus than others and I think we have a bit of a responsibility to them as well,” Southgate said.

In the UK, health and social care workers were among the first to receive a jab but vaccines have largely been offered by age or to those with existing medical conditions, rather than profession.

Southgate admitted any potential move may be impossible because of the recent problems with the UK’s vaccine supply.

“My view would have been we were close to getting to the point where it would have been acceptable for professional sportsmen to be on that list,” Southgate said.

“We are asking them to keep playing.

“I was not in any way suggesting they should have been ahead of key workers and teachers who should be ahead but we are getting close to the points where it could be acceptable and actually, football could afford to save the NHS money by buying the vaccines and administering them.”

Exemptions have allowed football to continue since its restart in June with players travelling for European fixtures in recent weeks.

Players are set to travel again for international matches later this month and some may have to quarantine on their return.

“They are having to take some risk going back to families and a lot of them have caught the virus because they have been working,” Southgate said.