Premier League hit by Covid-19 cases with more fixtures called off
Premier League chiefs are set to discuss soaring Covid-19 cases with owners and team managers next week, amid escalating calls for a fire-break this Christmas as clubs seek to contain the spread of the Omicron variant across their playing squads.
Covid-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant have already wreaked havoc with this weekend’s football fixtures.
Six Premier League games have been called off this weekend, with 42 positive cases reported in the top division on Friday alongside 93,045 cases across the country – the third record-breaking day in a row.
Only one game is set to take place today – Leeds vs Arsenal – with five matches cancelled on Saturday alone.
Most dramatically, Aston Villa’s game with Burnley was called off on the morning of the game.
Games involving big clubs such as Manchester United, West Ham and Aston Villa have all been suspended.
So far, the Premier League has ploughed ahead with fixtures this season, only cancelling matches on a case-by-case basis after outbreaks at clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.
Top flight managers are now calling for more certainty about fixtures, which are currently being determined on a case-by-case basis.
On Thursday, Brentford boss Thomas Frank pushed for a mid-season break to stem the spread.
He said: “We think we should postpone the full round of Premier League games this weekend. Covid cases are going through the roof at all Premier League clubs, everyone is dealing with it and having problems.”
Coaches seem increasingly concerned with Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta calling for ‘more clarity’ as fixtures continue to be postponed while Newcastle manager Eddie Howe is concerned the integrity of the league is under threat.
However Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp – who has been a major advocate of getting players vaccinated – does not support a winter break.
He said: “Stopping the league is probably not the right thing but with the schedule we have to be more flexible.”
Meanwhile, football looks set to continue in the Football League as it looks to keep up with its typically hectic schedule.
Nineteen fixtures due to be played across all three divisions of the English Football League on Saturday have also been postponed, while two games in the Women’s Super League on Saturday have been called off too.
However, Football League chairman Rick Parry said there are no plans to pause the football calendar.
Parry told the BBC: “If we think a circuit breaker will help, we will do it. But, at the moment, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that it will help.”
The government is also opposed to a winter break for football, relying on the booster programme to tackle the new threat from the Omicron variant.
However, there is now increasing talk of a potential national circuit-breaker lockdown after Christmas – which could result in no crowds in stadiums.
Meanwhile, the Football League has reported that only 75 per cent of its players have had a Covid-19 vaccine.
The Premier League and UK government is pushing for more players to get the vaccine to reduce the potential for the virus to spread.