Premier League clubs split over Covid circuit-breaker before Boxing Day fixtures

·3-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Premier League clubs are due to meet on Monday to discuss the escalating Covid-19 crisis, with some set to push for a temporary ‘circuit-breaker’ to the season.

The shareholders’ meeting is planned as a wide-ranging discussion of the situation rather than a specific debate on a short pause to the season, with the majority of clubs thought to be in favour of continuing to play matches where possible.

Four of this weekend’s games were postponed yesterday, taking the total number of Covid-related cancellations to nine across the top flight as a host of clubs struggle to contain outbreaks.

Brentford boss Thomas Frank has called for all this weekend’s fixtures and next week’s Carabao Cup quarter-final ties to be postponed but Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp said he did not see the point in pausing the season after last night’s 3-1 win over Newcastle, while Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish also spoke out against a break.

The Premier League are currently determined to resist calls for a break but may come under pressure from more clubs on Monday, particularly if any of this weekend’s five remaining matches fall victim to outbreaks.

Parish this morning told BBC Breakfast: “We haven’t had the level of postponements to get a real pause. We would rather get the games over with that we can, while we still can. I would be against [a circuit breaker] right now but we’ll see how things develop.”

Liverpool were without Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Curtis Jones due to suspected Covid for last night’s win at Anfield but Klopp is hopeful they will be able to face Spurs on Sunday.

“I don’t see the massive benefit of it [stopping the Premier League] because we come back {and] it is still the same,” he said. “If the virus will be gone then I am the first that stops and goes home and waits until it is gone. But that is probably not the case, so where’s the real benefit of it? We hope we can play and Tottenham can play on Sunday.”

Speaking yesterday morning, Frank, who reported 13 cases at the club, called for a pause, saying: “The Covid cases are going through the roof at all Premier League clubs. Everyone has a problem. To postpone this round [of Premier League games] and the Carabao Cup would give everyone a week at least to clean and do everything at the training ground so everything is fine, and we break the chain at every club.”

Tottenham’s scheduled visit to Leicester last night was cancelled yesterday lunchtime following more cases in the Foxes camp and was swiftly followed by four of this weekend’s fixtures: West Ham v Norwich, Southampton v Brentford, Watford v Crystal Palace tomorrow and Everton v Leicester on Sunday.

Manchester United’s game at Brighton had already been postponed, three days after the cancellation of the Red Devils’ match at Brentford. Watford’s visit to Burnley was called off two-and-a-half hours before kick off on Wednesday.

Leicester and Manchester United, whose cases number in the high teens, have both closed their training grounds on advice from Government and the Health Safety Authority.

The Premier League board is also under pressure to be more transparent over postponement decisions, with Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta this morning demanding more “clarity” to maintain the sporting integrity of the division.

“We need much more clarity why those games are getting not played and what do you need not to play a game, so we are all playing in the same league,” Arteta said ahead of tomorrow’s visit to Leeds. “The most important thing is that we are able to maintain, within the context, the fairness of the competition. And for me, this is a big thing now.”

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