The Premier League plans to continue with its Christmas schedule despite the majority of last weekend’s games being postponed owing to outbreaks of coronavirus and some clubs proposing a circuit-breaker to allow exhausted players a chance to recuperate.
In an online meeting of all 20 clubs at lunchtime in which the idea of moving Matchweek 20, the fixtures scheduled between Boxing Day and New Year, to later in the season was brought up, it quickly became apparent that the majority are in favour of continuing as scheduled despite a recognition of an increased risk to players and staff owing to the rapid spread of the omicron variant.
No formal vote took place, pointing toward there being a clear majority, but there is an awareness that the situation could deteriorate further in the coming days and some postponements are likely over the festive schedule.Typically for a Premier League motion to pass 14 clubs must be in favour.
Liverpool, whose squad is fully vaccinated but were depleted for yesterday’s draw away to Tottenham Hotspur owing to a number of positives, were among those to argue in favour of a brief pause according to The Athletic.
Spurs have three games in hand on some clubs having missed about two weeks of action due to an outbreak that impacted more than half a dozen first-team players.
Indications from Chelsea during the weekend were that they were in favour of continuing despite Thomas Tuchel’s squad being decimated to the extent they could only name three outfield players as substitutes away to Wolves yesterday.
They also have the additional schedule headache of having to play in FIFA’s Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi in February.
Criteria and clarity around postponements was also discussed in the meeting. Clubs are also increasingly concerned about supporter welfare but they will await government guidance before deciding to limit attendance or go behind closed doors. Noises from Westminster suggest that further restrictions are likely to be announced, potentially as soon as Boxing Day.
Meanwhile, the FA is expected to rule that FA Cup third and fourth round ties are to be decided on the day this season, opening up the midweeks reserved for replays for rearranged league games.