The Premier League have announced new requirements for the postponement of any further fixtures, following the recent abuse of guidelines by a number of clubs.
Over 20 games have already been postponed in this season’s top flight, with the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant a major contributing factor.
However, a situation has developed wherein which clubs have effectively used the pandemic as an excuse when unable to field a side deemed strong enough, whether that be due to injuries or players on international duty.
Now, the 20 Premier League clubs have voted to change the guidelines for fixture postponements due to Covid, with a minimum of four positive cases required for an application to be considered.
A statement on Wednesday confirmed:
“From now on, if a club applies to postpone a match on the grounds of insufficient players due to COVID-19, they must have a minimum of four positive cases within their squad.
“Throughout the pandemic, the Premier League has adapted its guidance in response to the wider public health situation. The guidance was last updated in December in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant.
“The League’s postponement rules and guidance are designed to protect the wellbeing of players and staff, while maintaining the sporting integrity of the competition and the quality of squads playing League matches.
“Club applications will continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The Premier League Board examines a number of factors, including the ability of a club to field a team; the status, severity and potential impact of COVID-19; and the ability of the players to safely prepare for and play the match.
“The detail within all applications is scrutinised by the League’s specialist staff before the Board makes its decision.”
This is a welcome development that has emerged following a series of questionable decisions from the Premier League board.
For example, Arsenal were successful in their application to postpone the North London derby earlier this month, despite only having one positive Covid case among Mikel Arteta’s first-team squad.
This has led to widespread criticism for perceived abuse of the rules, with a Tottenham statement explaining that the club were “extremely surprised” that their rivals were granted the postponement.
Liverpool themselves have found themselves embroiled in the controversy having had the first leg of the League Cup semi-final against Arsenal pushed back due to an ‘outbreak’ of cases among the senior squad.