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Premier League & Covid-19: What are the rules for postponing games?

14:11 GMT 27/01/2022
Premier League Covid-19 2021-22
GOAL has what you need to know about the Premier League's protocol for postponing matches due to Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the footballing season, especially with the Omicron variant now rapidly spreading across the UK and beyond.

Several Premier League games have been called off due to clubs experiencing outbreaks of the virus, and with the festive period accounting for the busiest time of the season, concerns have grown about the health and safety of the players and staff.

GOAL has what you need to know about the rules for postponing matches because of Covid-19.

What are the rules for postponing games due to Covid-19?

A match can be postponed when a club is unable to field 14 players, according to the Premier League handbook.

This minimum, however, includes academy and reserve players. Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel called up at least 12 academy players to his squad following a Covid-19 outbreak within the London club.

The rules state: "Permission will not be granted to postpone a league match where the applicant club has 14 or more players listed on its squad list available."

From January 26, 2022 a club can only apply to have a game postponed if they have a minimum of four positive Covid-19 cases within their squad.

Each request for postponement will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and will "only permit the rearrangement or postponement of a league match in exceptional circumstances".

So, if a club has 14 or more players in their squad list available to play, they will not be granted a postponement.

In a later statement, the Premier League continued to say that it would "assess a number of factors, including the ability of a club to field a team; the status, severity and potential impact of the Covid-19 outbreak at the club; and the ability of the players to safely prepare for and play the match.

"The Board must also consider the wider risks to the opposition and other people the club may come into contact with."

The Premier League's Covid-19 Emergency Measures will be reviewed on a weekly basis, with a view to ending them no later than February 28, 2022.

What have Premier League managers said?

Tuchel has been particularly vocal with his frustration at being forced to continue playing fixtures despite a large number of his players and staff testing positive for Covid-19.

Chelsea's request to have their game against Wolves on December 19 postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreeak was denied by the Premier League.

Tuchel stated in a press conference: "We have the schedule. I can understand it's not easy to postpone games. But for isolated situations like ours, in the last match, we had our concerns, and we thought we had a strong case. So I shared my thoughts with everybody and we accept the situation.

"We accepted the challenge when we arrived at Wolverhampton with 14 players. And out of these 14 players with a lot of them we took a huge risk. And in general we did not feel fully safe, those involved in the trip. But apart from that we accepted the challenge and and we will accept the next challenge. It will not get easier because these guys are out, but that's it."

Former Everton boss Rafa Benitez also spoke of the challenges he faces at Goodison Park as top-flight sides attempt to fulfil their fixtures in testing times. The Spaniard said: "We have six injuries and five players with COVID.

“We have followed all the rules, we have done lateral flows every day, we do the PCRs and we have worn the masks. We have players in three different dressing rooms [to reduce the risk of transmission].

"But we cannot control if you go to a game, if a player is positive but has not got any symptoms, he can pass the virus to the others. After we played against Chelsea, we found we have five positives. 

“We have nine outfield players and three keepers. And then we have to bring five new young players into the team, who are not even 21 years old.

"We have players who have knocks and we have to push them. Dominic [Calvert-Lewin] has been out for two months and maybe has to play for 90 minutes. It is a massive risk."

How many games have been called off due to Covid-19?

Twenty Premier League games have been postponed due to a large number of positive Covid-19 cases found within clubs.

Tottenham's clash against Brighton, originally due to be played on December 12, was called off due to the North London club having an outbreak of the virus.

Brentford vs Man Utd on December 14 was also called off due to the Red Devils' players and staff returning a high number of positive results.

Leicester vs Tottenham, Southampton vs Brentford, Watford vs Crystal Palace and West Ham vs Norwich are among the other games that were later cancelled due to Covid-19 outbreaks.

Problems continued in the run up to Christmas, with Boxing Day fixtures involving Liverpool, Leeds, Watford, Wolves, Everton and Burnley all having to be rearranged.

Further postponements occurred in the new year, with four games in January needing to be rearranged.