January 20 – The English Premier League is considering revising its controversial Covid regulations which have caused the postponement of 22 fixtures over the past five weeks – many of them linked to injuries and international call-ups as well as positive cases of the virus.
Rules could be changed for the round of fixtures beginning on February 8 following a short winter break and FA Cup fixtures, with the league crediting a recent fall in the number of positive Covid tests among players and staff.
Any rule change would require the support of 14 or more of the 20 clubs.
Regulations on Covid postponements were agreed last year but have started to divide clubs and alienate fans because the rules as laid out allow games to be called off for reasons unrelated to the virus and have been exploited by those who suddenly find themselves with limited resources at their disposal and unable to find 13 available players.
Last weekend, Tottenham Hotspur released a statement denouncing the decision to postpone their derby with Arsenal and calling for “clarity and consistency on the application of the rule”.
Spurs said that whereas “the original intention of the guidance was to deal with player availability directly affected by Covid cases”, the “unintended consequences” of the rule meant that decisions were being taken due to “player availability unrelated to Covid”.
On Wednesday Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, whose club have four players on international duty at the African Nations Cup as well as several out on loan, defended the decision to apply for a postponement. “We got to a point where we could not make a squad available with the numbers required in this league to play a game,” he countered.
A Premier League spokesperson said: “The Premier League is consulting with our clubs regarding Covid-19 postponement rules and guidance in light of the changing national picture and the falling number of cases within our squads.
“The League’s current guidance was amended in December following the emergence of the new Omicron variant and we continue to monitor the ongoing effects of the virus and will update our guidance accordingly.”
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