Premier League accepts new Covid measures to stem epidemics in clubs

Tottenham game called off due to Spurs outbreak

Premier League players and club staff will have to pass a daily lateral flow test to enter the training grounds under new measures agreed on Tuesday to tackle the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The action aims to stem the growing number of positive Covid cases.

The Premier League confirmed on Monday that there had been a record 42 positives in the previous seven days.

This is the highest figure recorded since the start of Covid tests as part of the restart of the project during the 2019-2020 season.

Previously, the most positive tests returned in a week this season were 16 from August 16 to 22, when there were 3,060 tests.

Foyers in Tottenham and Manchester United caused the postponement of two league games in the space of three days, while Brighton, Leicester, Aston Villa and Norwich have all confirmed cases.

In addition to the daily tests to access the training grounds, players and staff will now have a PCR test at least twice a week, which was the case last season, before it was changed to flow tests. lateral in the summer.

It is expected that the measures will be implemented quickly in an attempt to stem the spread of the new Omicron variant. Wearing an additional mask, limiting the time spent receiving physical treatment, and social distancing are also advised to reduce the risk of new cases.

As the season is about to enter the busy festive schedule, clubs will want to avoid postponements which could create a backlog of games and potentially even leave the league open to requests for rebates from broadcast partners, which had to be paid. during the 2019-2020 season. suspended at the start of the pandemic.

However, West Ham manager David Moyes believes the timing ‘plays a role’ in the transmission, adding: ‘The players have very little time to recover and when you are exhausted you are more likely to contract the virus. .

“What we’re doing to players right now… it shows with the number of players getting the virus.”

And after losing four players to coronavirus concerns ahead of a 2-0 loss to Aston Villa on Tuesday, Norwich manager Dean Smith said there should be a “magic number” for the case threshold so that a match is canceled.

Last week, following the introduction of new coronavirus rules in England, the Premier League told clubs to return to emergency measures, including social distancing and the wearing of masks.

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber told BBC Sport his club are now ‘going through tests three times a week’ for players and staff working ‘in the bubble’ to try to limit the number of infections that spread from player to player.

And from Wednesday, fans will have to show proof of double vaccination or a negative test to attend sporting events with crowds of more than 10,000 in England. This includes Premier League matches.

Stadiums have been free to operate at full capacity since the last Covid restrictions were lifted in July.

Fan walks past a sign explaining how to stay safe in a stadium
Fans will need a Covid pass to attend Premier League games from Wednesday

Which Premier League clubs have Covid-19 outbreaks?

that of Tottenham The Europa Conference League match against Rennes was called off on Thursday due to the epidemic which resulted in Brighton being postponed.

Also on Thursday, a number of Leicester the players did not travel to Italy for their Europa League group game against Napoli due to testing positive for Covid-19.

On Monday evening, the Premier League confirmed that of Manchester United The game at Brentford had been postponed after the Old Trafford club expressed safety concerns following the closure of their training ground for 24 hours to reduce the risk of transmission.

Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard confirmed that “a few staff and a few players” tested positive, but insisted the “vast majority” were negative. Gerrard’s side were able to play in Tuesday’s Premier League game at Norwich who – as their manager Smith said above – were without four players due to issues related to Covid.

AT Brighton, Head coach Graham Potter says there are “three or four” positive cases.

In the league, QPR The second game in a week was called off with “a number of positive Covid-19 cases” in their first team.

Saturday’s home game with Swansea is interrupted, after Monday’s trip to Sheffield United has also been postponed.

What are Premier League managers saying about Covid-19?

Before the postponement, Brentford boss Thomas Frank echoed that of Arsenal Mikel Arteta in calling for more clarity from the Premier League on match changes due to Covid-19.

Manchester city Manager Pep Guardiola said he encourages his players to get vaccinated, adding: “We speak with the players every day to tell them to be careful. Stay healthy, wear masks, social distancing.”

Conversely, Burnley Manager Sean Dyche has revealed he does not “preach to players” about vaccines, but Smith of Norwich described the Canaries as “highly vaccinated”.

Dyche added, “We definitely have players who don’t have the full vaccination. Everyone has a choice, personally I have all three because I think it’s right to do it.”

What are the rules for fans in Premier League matches?

The government’s introduction of ‘plan B’ on Wednesday to combat the spread of the Omicron variant means that fans will be required to show proof of double vaccination or a negative test to attend sporting events with crowds of over 10,000 people in England.

Premier League clubs have carried out spot checks on fans so far this season, with Brighton, Chelsea and Tottenham among those making Covid passes mandatory.

Brighton faces Wolves in the Premier League on Wednesday and Seagulls general manager Paul Barber has said he hopes that as long as fans follow the new measures there will be no return of restrictions on the number of attend matches.

Barber said Brighton supporters should complete a pre-match online declaration and “ideally” wear masks inside the stadium.

“It seems like a small price to pay to protect each other, protect the NHS and hopefully keep the stadium open to capacity,” Barber added.

“The government expects us to do more random checks than we have done before, so chances are it will take longer to get in.”

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said he “appreciates” football players and staff “testing at high volumes” and said the current measures were “proportionate” and “correct for now”.

Asked about immunization levels in sport, Huddleston added, “A lot of athletes have been immunized and they have been big advocates of immunizing others. I really appreciate that.

“Those who have not yet been vaccinated for all kinds of reasons, I strongly encourage them to do so. There will always be people who cannot get vaccinated, we understand that, but the key message is to not just get vaccinated but use your fame to insure yourself for the country.

“The important thing is that they test and in high volumes, which is great. The message to footballers and everyone is to get vaccinated, to get boosted because it is the best way to get protecting and protecting others. I appreciate the fact that football tests a lot because that is so important. “

And the EFL?

During the 2020-21 season, the Professional Footballers Association paid an estimated bill of £ 5million for the players to be tested in the English Football League. But until this point in the 2021-22 season, clubs weren’t required to test players.

The EFL had published guidelines in July around two protocols “green” and “red”. Clubs followed ‘green’ protocols for daily symptom screening, with more stringent ‘red’ protocols including testing triggered only by local outbreaks, further restrictions imposed by the government – as happened the last days.

A decision to switch to “red” protocols would be made by the league in consultation with the clubs.

The EFL told BBC Sport on Tuesday that “conversations on Covid issues are ongoing.”

In the meantime, the matches are affected in the league, QPR being forced on Tuesday to postpone a second match in a few days amid a Covid epidemic at the club.

And in Scotland?

No new official guidelines have been put in place yet – beyond the continued use of lateral flow testing – although some clubs are taking their own additional precautions regarding testing.

New advice emerged over the weekend around travel, with clubs being told that if anyone on a team bus tested positive, all passengers would have to self-isolate for 10 days.

However, this has been revised after clarification from the Scottish Government. From now on, only family contacts or those who have not had a double injection will not be able to be erased by a negative test.

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