LONDON: Coronavirus outbreaks at Leeds United and Watford have led to two Premier League matches scheduled for Sunday being postponed in the latest disruption to the competition caused by cases rising in squads.

Leeds were due to travel to Liverpool and Watford were set to play at Wolverhampton Wanderers as part of the Boxing Day programme that still features seven games.

The Premier League has now called off 12 matches due to coronavirus issues in two weeks, with players having to isolate after testing positive or if they are unvaccinated and a close contact of a Covid-19 case.

“The league is aware that the decision to postpone these two matches will disappoint supporters and understands their frustrations at a special time of year when fans look forward to attending and watching football games,” the Premier League said in a statement on Thursday.

Games are also being wiped out lower down the leagues, with six of Sunday’s 10 matches in the second-tier Championship postponed.

The Leeds training ground has been closed to contain the spread of the coronavirus, with five new positive cases among the squad and staff reported on Thursday.

“All of the cases we have experienced are asymptomatic which we believe is due to our high vaccine take-up,” Leeds said. “The positive cases, combined with our well-documented injury issues, means that we would not have enough recognised first-team players to meet the Premier League requirements for the fixture.”

Watford told the league that with players coming out of isolation they expect to be able to play West Ham United on Tuesday.

Everton’s request for their match against Burnley to be postponed has been rejected despite being without 11 players due to injury or Covid infection.

The situation is worse in the lower divisions with four second-tier Championship games scheduled for Boxing Day postponed due to Covid-19 cases while 11 games in League One and League Two were also called off.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Britain, where the omicron variant is now dominant, have surged by almost 60% in a week.

After recording a record 90 positive cases last week, the Premier League urged players to get vaccinated with 16% yet to receive a single dose. While more than 90% of players in Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga have been fully vaccinated, the Premier League said Monday that only 77% of its players were doubled jabbed.

No restrictions have yet been put in place for the size of crowds at matches in England, although supporters do have to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test taken in the previous 48 hours.

Sport in Wales will be forced back behind closed doors from December 26, while in Scotland a restriction of 500 for outdoor public events from the same day has seen Scottish Premiership clubs bring forward their winter break by a week.

Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2021

Opinion

Editorial

More leaks
Updated 29 Sep, 2022

More leaks

Recent leaks look more like an inside job than the work of a foreign power.
A depressing winter
29 Sep, 2022

A depressing winter

WINTER is on its way, with a massive gas crunch looming as elevated global LNG prices have eroded the cash-strapped...
Great expectations
29 Sep, 2022

Great expectations

CONSIDERING that the Afghan Taliban have been in the saddle for over a year now, the UN has expressed frustration...
The whole truth
28 Sep, 2022

The whole truth

THE war on truth has never been more relentless than it is today. Authoritarianism is on the rise and purveyors of...
Real-world trolls
Updated 28 Sep, 2022

Real-world trolls

It's reprehensible how PTI supporters now seem convinced that politicians from opposing camps aren't entitled to basic dignity.
Islamabad wildlife
28 Sep, 2022

Islamabad wildlife

PRESERVING biodiversity is low on the list of priorities of both state and society. However, successful attempts at...