Premier League clubs to fulfil Christmas fixture list despite Covid cases
Premier League clubs have been advised if they have 13 fit players, and a goalkeeper, they should play their fixtures.
The Premier League's 20 clubs met on Monday to discuss the fixture list after six weekend games were postponed. The decision has been made to fulfil the festive fixtures despite ongoing disruption caused by COVID-19 cases.
The postponement of a round of games over Christmas was a possibility. No vote took place, meaning two rounds of fixtures will take place over five days from 26 December.
Clubs have been advised if they have 13 fit players, plus a goalkeeper, they should play their games. In Sunday's Premier League fixture between Wolves and Chelsea, Chelsea named just six substitutes for their draw at Molineux. Head coach Thomas Tuchel was disappointed with the Premier League's decision to allow the game to go ahead. Tuchel said: "We were put in a huge risk of health and safety to the players, not just because of Covid but also physically. I'm not sure if I'll catch Covid. Hopefully, I will not catch it."
Fixtures called off
At the weekend, many fans up and down the country were told of match postponements just hours before their teams were due to kick-off. Aston Villa vs Burnley was called off on Saturday morning, as many Burnley fans were making their way to Villa Park.
The Clarets tweeted the official announcement at 12:49pm, just two hours and 11 minutes until the match had been due to start against Steven Gerrard's Villa. With Burnley being more than two hours' drive from Villa Park, around 2,000 visiting fans had already set off on the trip, only to be left disappointed by the late decision. Six of this weekend's six fixtures were called off, including Manchester United vs Brighton at Old Trafford.
Christmas fixtures get green light
Several Premier League clubs believe they should continue playing where possible as there is no guarantee the situation will improve if they stop. Other clubs believe the integrity of the competition is under threat and feel the next round of games should have been called off.
Most Premier League clubs are due to play three times between Boxing Day and January 2 and, despite the decision to continue playing games, there are fears more fixtures will be postponed because of rising number of Covid cases. There is also a fear among the clubs that they will soon have to return to playing games without fans in stadiums across the UK.
Premier League confirms decision to continue playing
In an official statement released on Monday, the Premier League said:
"It was confirmed at a Premier League club meeting today that while recognising a number of clubs are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and challenges, it is the League’s collective intention to continue the current fixture schedule where safely possible.
"The health and wellbeing of all concerned remains our priority and the League will continue to monitor and reflect public health guidance, always proceeding with caution.
"A range of issues were discussed at this afternoon’s meeting, including the adaption of the Premier League COVID-19 postponement process in response to the impact of the Omicron variant.
"The League also confirmed to its clubs today that 92 per cent of players and club staff have received one, two or three COVID-19 vaccination doses, with 84 per cent of players on the vaccination journey.
"Players who have had one or two doses are required to wait for the appropriate time period before receiving either their second or booster vaccinations.
"The League continues to work with clubs to encourage vaccination among players and club staff, as well as promoting the Government’s public-health vaccination messaging to clubs and the wider public.
"No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League, and player vaccination rates will now be publicly communicated at the end of each month, beginning in January."