Premier League opts against postponing round of fixtures despite Covid chaos
The Premier League is set to continue through the festive period despite the escalating crisis caused by Covid-19 across top-flight squads, with 90 confirmed cases among players and staff recorded last week
The option to postpone a full round of fixtures during the Premier League’s festive programme was discussed in a meeting of all 20 clubs on Monday.
Only four Premier League matches took place across the weekend as the number of postponements due to Covid-19 outbreaks in the past week reached 10 fixtures.
The Premier League had previously resisted calls to enforce a break, and is set to stand by its intention to “continue its current fixture schedule where safely possible”.
Growing concerns around player welfare, sporting integrity and confusion over the inconsistencies of postponements led to calls from managers for space to be freed up during the hectic festive period.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, whose matches went ahead on Sunday despite their squads being hit by Covid absences, both highlighted the danger of players rushing back from injuries in order to fulfil fixture commitments.
All 20 Premier League teams are scheduled to play three matches between Boxing Day and 3 January. Seven Premier League teams, including Chelsea and Liverpool, also face Carabao Cup quarter-finals this week.
Given the impact on top-flight squads, one option on the table was rescheduling an entire round of fixtures to a later point in the season.
The idea of moving gameweek 20, which is set to be shown live in the UK on Amazon Prime between 28 and 30 December, was discussed but did not receive universal support.
Meanwhile, the Football Association has decided to scrap third and fourth round replays from the FA Cup in an attempt to help with the mounting fixture congestion.
The Premier League has yet to decide when the matches postponed due to Covid-19 will be rescheduled, and the midweek dates in late January and mid-February could offer clubs a window to fulfil their fixtures.
There are also discussions taking place on whether this season’s Carabao Cup semi-finals should be played across one leg rather than the traditional home and away ties.
A Premier League statement read: “It was confirmed at a Premier League club meeting today that while recognising a number of clubs are experiencing Covid-19 outbreaks and challenges, it is the League’s collective intention to continue the current fixture schedule where safely possible. The health and wellbeing of all concerned remains our priority and the League will continue to monitor and reflect public health guidance, always proceeding with caution.
“A range of issues were discussed at this afternoon’s meeting, including the adaption of the Premier League Covid-19 postponement process in response to the impact of the Omicron variant.
“The League also confirmed to its clubs today that 92 per cent of players and club staff have received one, two or three Covid-19 vaccination doses, with 84 per cent of players on the vaccination journey. Players who have had one or two doses are required to wait for the appropriate time period before receiving either their second or booster vaccinations.
“The League continues to work with clubs to encourage vaccination among players and club staff, as well as promoting the government’s public health vaccination messaging to clubs and the wider public.
“No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League, and player vaccination rates will now be publicly communicated at the end of each month, beginning in January.”
The English Football League (EFL) will also continue over the festive period, despite a number of Boxing Day fixtures across the Championship and League Two being postponed due to Covid-19.
“The EFL can confirm that its programme of games in the league and Carabao Cup will continue with fixtures to be played where it is safe to do so, and the set squad criteria can be fulfilled by club,” the organisation said in a statement.
“While the league acknowledges there will likely be future postponements to navigate where Covid-19 cases are identified, there is optimism that disruption can be minimised following implementation of ‘red protocols’, a daily testing regime and ongoing vaccination rollout.”