Premier League loses another game to Covid outbreak

Published December 19, 2021
A programme seller returns takes her stall back towards the stadium following the news that Aston Villa's match against Burnley at Villa Park has been postponed, in Birmingham on Dec 18. — AP
A programme seller returns takes her stall back towards the stadium following the news that Aston Villa's match against Burnley at Villa Park has been postponed, in Birmingham on Dec 18. — AP

LONDON: The Premier League lost another match to a Covid-19 outbreak in a squad when Aston Villa’s home game against Burnley was postponed around two hours before kickoff on Saturday.

Villa said it did not have enough players to field a team following more positive tests in its squad that were reported early Saturday. The league approved Villa’s request to postpone the match based on the number of Covid-19 cases, injuries and illness.

“After reviewing all the new information provided by Aston Villa this morning and receiving separate medical advice, the Board approved the request as a result of the club not having enough players to field a team,” the league said. “This decision was based on the number of Covid-19 cases, injuries and illness.”

Neither the Premier League nor Villa provided details on how many players had tested positive.

“The results of PCR tests, which were taken yesterday prior to training as well as Lateral Flow Tests, were received this morning and confirmed further depletion of our playing squad which was already impacted upon for our trip to Norwich in midweek,” said Villa, who won that game 2-0.

“All individuals who tested positive are now isolating in line with Premier League and government guidance and protocols. The Club is extremely sorry for the inconvenience caused to Burnley Football Club, both our own supporters and the Burnley fans due to attend the fixture, but have acted as swiftly as possible this morning to minimise disruption.”

Burnley had seen their home match against Watford on Wednesday called off at similar short notice after positive test results emerged in the visitors’ squad.

Tony Scholes, communication officer for Burnley FC Supporters Groups, one of hundreds of fans who had travelled to the game, questioned the lack of consideration for supporters.

“While aware of the current crisis, to have two games called off at such short notice within days of each other really is unacceptable. So many supporters are being inconvenienced without it seems any real concern from the clubs and the league,” he said.

Five matches scheduled for this weekend had already been called off because of coronavirus outbreaks in squads amid a worsening health emergency in Britain as the Omicron variant spreads.

The league said the remaining four games Leeds United-Arsenal on Saturday and Newcastle United-Manchester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers-Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur-Liverpool on Sunday are currently scheduled to proceed as planned.

The total number of Premier League games to have been postponed over the past week stands at 10. Only six games were called off in the whole of last season because of the coronavirus.

Premier League managers will meet on Monday to discuss the Covid-19 situation and what action to take, with a busy schedule of matches over the Christmas and New Year period.

Some managers have voiced concerns over potential harm to the integrity of the competition, with teams deprived of key players and some training grounds closed.

Brentford boss Thomas Frank this week called for a suspension of matches to “break the chain” of infection while Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp said it could soon become impossible to maintain the schedule as squads became over-stretched by Covid absences and injuries.

The Premier League’s position has been that games will continue when it is safe to stage them.

The English Football League, which comprises the three divisions below the Premier League, has also been hit by a swathe of postponements with 19 of its 36 games called off due to coronavirus.

Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2021

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