EPL to continue despite outrage from players and managers

Publish Date
Tuesday, 21 December 2021, 10:27AM
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Managers and players have been left angry with their clubs and the Premier League for rejecting a 'festive firebreak' amid the upsurge in Covid-19 cases which they believe will put safety at risk.

After seeing their own meeting - about the rise in cases that has resulted in postponements and stretched squads to their limits - rescheduled for Friday, managers and players in the top flight were told on Tuesday they would have to keep playing through the packed Christmas schedule following an emergency meeting of all 20 clubs.

It had been hoped that the round of games scheduled to start on December 28 would be postponed to create space in the fixture list for recovery, with coaches having to rely on a smaller pool of players because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But clubs, who have been warned restrictions may be necessary in January, rejected that idea and a suggestion to try to split the next two rounds of games over December 26/27 and 28-30 because they judged it to be unworkable.

While confirming that clubs will continue to work to the current schedule, the Premier League released new vaccination figures that showed 16 per cent of players have not yet received a single jab.

The number of fully vaccinated players to have received two doses now stands at 77 per cent, up from 68 per cent in October, while 92 per cent of players and club staff have received at least one dose of the vaccination. By contrast, in Italy's Serie A, the double vaccination rate is 98 per cent, while in Germany's Bundesliga it is 94 per cent.

Managers and players will get their chance to offer up their views at a meeting rescheduled for Friday and one source told Telegraph Sport: "They aren't happy."

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel claimed the safety of his players had been overlooked by the Premier League's decision to reject a request to postpone their game against Wolverhampton Wanderers and the German must now prepare for three games in eight days, starting with Thursday's Carabao Cup tie against Brentford, with a heavily depleted squad.

The Football Association accepted a proposal to cancel replays in the third and fourth rounds of this season's FA Cup, but that is unlikely to fully appease the managers and players who believe the forthcoming schedule is too heavy.

A Premier League statement said: "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."

The Premier League and its clubs have come under fire for late postponements over the past week and the statement added: "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."

Confirming the change to the FA Cup schedule, an FA statement said: "We can today confirm that replays have been removed in both the third and fourth rounds of the 2021-22 Emirates FA Cup.

"This exceptional decision was approved by the FA Board on Friday 17 December and has been taken in the wider interest of English football to alleviate the possibility of fixture congestion following several postponements in recent days and continued uncertainty ahead due to Covid-19.

"Ties in the third and fourth rounds of this season's competition will be played to a finish on the day, with extra-time and penalty shootouts if required. Replays will return up to and including the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup from the 2022-23 season onwards."

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission