The English Football League is not planning to bring in mandatory Covid-19 testing of players, despite outbreaks across at least six clubs and a series of Christmas postponements.
Bi-weekly testing had taken place throughout the summer but the EFL dropped its testing requirement following the resumption of the new season after citing how more than 99 per cent of the summer tests had registered negative results.
Millwall and Ipswich Town, however, have now joined Sunderland and Peterborough in cancelling fixtures over the coming week, while Portsmouth are also having an emergency series of squad tests following four positive cases. Bristol Rovers are hoping to return to training on Wednesday, subject to further squad testing, after being forced to postpone their last two matches.
With tests each costing between £100 and £150, clubs were facing a weekly bill in the tens of thousands of pounds if they continued with testing players and staff twice a week. It had been suggested that either the Premier League or Professional Footballers’ Association could fund the testing but, as it is, testing is only required if a player develops symptoms, following international breaks or a lengthy period away from the training ground. Clubs are required to work according to strict ‘Covid-secure’ guidelines which are reviewed constantly by the EFL and should, in theory, prevent widescale outbreaks.
Millwall said on Monday that its Calmont Road training ground had been closed and that forthcoming Championship matches against AFC Bournemouth on Boxing Day and at home to Watford had been cancelled.
Portsmouth chief executive Mark Catlin also admitted that he now feared an escalating problem across League One.
“I speak to a lot of people in football and once it starts to get a grip within a squad it just seems to spiral out of control,” he said. “I’m sure that’s replicated through businesses and schools currently throughout the world. There’s no plans that I’m aware of in terms of meetings to discuss a possible suspension.”
Ipswich have already postponed their League One fixtures against Northampton and AFC Wimbledon after revealing on Saturday that their manager Paul Lambert, as well five other players or staff, had tested positive for Covid. The Premier League intend to remind clubs of the strict protocols that they must follow if they want to carry on playing matches but there are no currently plans to suspend fixtures following the surge in Covid-19 cases.
However the situation is being monitored closely and that may change if there is new Government guidance. Senior figures at the Premier League admit it could be a very difficult time ahead but are hopeful the fixtures can continue if the rules are followed.
So far only one Premier League match – Newcastle United’s fixture away to Aston Villa – has been called off due to a coronavirus outbreak.
There were seven new positive Premier League cases from their latest round of…
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