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The Premier League and Football League have played down concerns the season may have to be put on hold because of the sharp rise in coronavirus cases, which has led to nearly 50 matches being postponed since Christmas.
But the mounting scale of the problem was illustrated on Tuesday when the Premier League announced a record 18 positive results among players and staff from tests conducted last week – including five at Manchester City, whose game against Everton was called off on Monday.
Fulham’s game against Tottenham on Wednesday is also in doubt after Scott Parker’s side reported a number of cases. But Sheffield United’s match at Burnley went ahead despite the Blades recording a “number of positive coronavirus tests”.
There are growing fears the FA Cup third round will be hit by multiple postponements when all 64 clubs are tested next week, especially with Britain having 53,135 new Covid infections on Tuesday – a record number.
However the Premier League and EFL said there have been no discussions over whether to pause or suspend the season. The Premier League also stressed that it recently doubled the testing of club players and staff to twice a week – and that only a tiny number had been positive.
In a statement, the Premier League insisted it continued to have “full confidence in its protocols and rules, and the way in which all clubs are implementing them”.
The Football League, too, is adamant the season will continue. However it is now investigating why there has been such a sharp rise in cases among its clubs after nine more matches were postponed on Tuesday night.
The EFL has also urged clubs to take another look at their safety protocols to ensure players and staff do not congregate in small spaces indoors, and to see whether they can hold more meetings remotely. Clubs have also been asked to use more coaches for away games to lessen the chance of the virus spreading.
However the The Rochdale’s club doctor, Wes Tensel, said it was important the EFL sees the “bigger picture” and halts the campaign. Tensel, who is also a practising GP, said: “That is my feeling as a doctor. As a football fan I don’t want it to stop. But I am trying to see the bigger picture. A lot of people have been affected this year.
“Footballers travelling around the country are not causing spikes in different tiers but they can still pass it on to their loved ones because the football bubble they are in bursts every time they go home. There are consequences outside of the football pitch.”
A government source confirmed there are no plans to change the guidance for elite sport. However as cases continue to surge, the football calendar is likely to be further hit.The EFL does not test its players regularly but relies more on them reporting symptoms and on contract tracing. But from next Monday it will begin its next wave of mandatory testing on players in the Championship, League One and League Two, while the FA will also pay for tests on clubs in the third round of the FA Cup – potentially flagging up more Covid cases and causing more postponements.
Chelsea are still waiting to hear whether their Premier League match against Manchester City will take place on Sunday. Their FA Cup tie against Morecambe the following weekend is also in doubt after the League Two club was forced to call off their next two matches. League One clubs Doncaster Rovers and Rochdale have also been forced to postpone their next two and three games respectively, while there have also been cases at Sunderland, Peterborough, Ipswich Town and Millwall.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Premier League and EFL play down pausing season despite Covid surge | Football