Premier League vow they will NOT cancel all pre-Christmas fixtures amid Omicron surge despite calls for Covid shutdown
PREM chiefs have vowed to plough on with the weekend programme – ignoring calls for a pre-Christmas Covid shutdown.
Brentford boss Thomas Frank began a remarkable day of Prem frenzy by publicly calling on the League to postpone the entire weekend fixture list and urging the EFL to also put the midweek Carabao Cup last eight ties on ice.
Within hours, Spurs’ trip to Leicester on Thursday night was called off after the Foxes’ virus outbreak intensified, as was Manchester United’s game with Brighton on Saturday as the Old Trafford side were left with just SEVEN available players.
Norwich manager Dean Smith is also worried about getting a team together for his side’s game at West Ham.
Across the country, a number of top flight executives were privately suggesting that taking a break until Boxing Day might be the best way of providing a firewall against the virus spread.
But the Prem insisted there are no plans to even consider a temporary close down.
In a statement which confirmed “with regret” the second United match postponement of the week, the Prem said: “While recognising a number of clubs are experiencing Covid-19 outbreaks, it is the League’s intention to continue its current fixture schedule where safely possible.
“The health and wellbeing of all concerned remains our priority.”
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The rapid escalation of the crisis came as EFL bosses revealed that one in FOUR players across the three divisions is REFUSING to get vaccinated.
So far, one third of the weekend’s 36 EFL games – including the Championship matches at Cardiff, Coventry, Millwall, QPR and Reading – have bitten the dust.
That saw League bosses order all 72 clubs to immediately implement their “Red” Covid protocols.
These include enforced social distancing, restrictions on the use of indoor facilities and group travel, with squads being split over more than one coach for away matches, plus daily lateral flow tests to enter training grounds.
But in a staggering development, the EFL revealed that, as of last month, only 59 per cent of players had been double-vaccinated, with 25 per cent telling the League they “do not intend to get a vaccine”.
Even the EFL’s own medical advisor, Dr Richard Higgins, warned: “We know that getting double jabbed and boosted now will reduce the risk of getting seriously ill or dying from Covid-19.
“It will also reduce the risk of catching or spreading Covid-19 amongst team-mates and loved ones, while helping protect against variants including Omicron.”
Spurs were in a Midlands hotel ahead of their match at the King Power Stadium when the game was called off because Leicester reported they had “an insufficient number of players” with the training ground also closed down.
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So, for the second time this week, was United’s Carrington complex, with the club insisting there was “no option other than to request the match be rearranged.”
It leaves both Spurs and United in particular facing fixture pile-ups in the New Year, with Tottenham now three games behind in addition to the outstanding Conference League group clash with Rennes.
But the bigger issue facing the Prem is how many more games will fall victim to Omicron and the potential of the wave playing total havoc with the Christmas fixture list.
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