Premier League confident in Covid protocols as season continues

The Premier League has “full confidence” in its Covid-19 protocols, with no plans to pause the season despite a surge in positive cases which led to another match being postponed.

Wednesday night’s fixture between Tottenham and Fulham was called off less than three hours before the scheduled 6pm start after the visitors returned more positive coronavirus test results.

It is the third Premier League game to be wiped out following a national rise in infection levels – with Monday’s clash between Everton and Manchester City having followed the postponement of Newcastle against Aston Villa at the start of December.

Manchester City’s players have now resumed training after no new positive cases of Covid-19 were reported following a round of testing on Tuesday.

More tests will take place later in the week – the results of which will determine whether the trip to Chelsea on Sunday and then the Carabao Cup semi-final at Manchester United can go ahead.

Spurs, meanwhile, are understood to be unhappy about both the decision to postpone the Fulham game and the timing of the confirmation – with manager Jose Mourinho indicating his frustration in an Instagram post shortly after 2pm as staff waited for official news.

Despite some calls – including from new West Brom manager Sam Allardyce – for a “circuit-breaker” in fixtures to help tackle the fast-developing situation across the country, the competition will continue as planned.

“The Premier League has not discussed pausing the season and has no plans to do so,” a Premier League statement read.

“The League continues to have confidence in its Covid-19 protocols to enable fixtures to be played as scheduled, and these protocols continue to have the full backing of Government.

The Premier League had announced on Tuesday there had been a season-high 18 positive tests in the latest round of testing across the clubs.

The latest fixture postponement came after a board meeting when Fulham had lodged a request to rearrange the game “following a significant rise in positive Covid-19 cases, as well as a number of players showing symptoms (on Wednesday).”

After consulting medical advisors, the decision to postpone the match was “taken as a precaution and with the health of players and staff as the priority”.

Fulham said the players and staff who tested positive have been self-isolating “in line with UK Government and Premier League guidance”, with the group set to be retested.

On Wednesday afternoon, it was confirmed all Premier League fixtures would now revert to being behind closed doors as the Government placed almost all of England under tier three or four coronavirus restrictions.

A general view of Everton fans in the stands during a Premier League match at Goodison Park
A general view of Everton fans in the stands during a Premier League match at Goodison Park

Under the rules, fans are only able to attend games in regions that are in tier one or two – which now applies solely to the Isles of Scilly.

The move comes after the Scottish government had tightened its own restrictions on Boxing Day, ruling fans out of attending all elite-level games, while spectators are also banned in Wales.

Everton’s home Premier League match against West Ham on Friday night is the first to be impacted, with the Merseyside club having put extensive measures in place for the 2,000 fans expected to be present at Goodison Park.

Tottenham’s FA Cup third-round tie at non-league Marine on January 10 will also now be behind closed doors. The Northern Premier League Division One side had hoped to be able to welcome some 500 supporters for the fixture.

“This is a huge disappointment for all involved with the club, but safety must always be paramount,” a statement from Marine read.

Club Statement: Return to Behind Closed Doors Fixtures. #pafc

— Plymouth Argyle FC (@Only1Argyle) December 30, 2020

Until the government’s announcement, the Premier League and EFL clubs which had been able to admit fans were Everton, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Plymouth, Shrewsbury, Barrow, Carlisle, Exeter, Harrogate and Tranmere, as well as Everton and Bristol City in the Women’s Super League.

The affected clubs responded with resignation.

Plymouth said in a statement: “Of course, everyone associated with Argyle is disappointed with this development, but we appreciate the importance of overcoming this pandemic together.”