Monday, January 17, 2022

Football leagues and other sports events to have a break due to Increasing Covid-19 cases?

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Premier League clubs gathered on Monday to explore how to deal with the rising Covid-19 situation, which has been exacerbated by the new Omicron variety. In December, more than half of the EPL’s 20 clubs suffered severe outbreaks, with six games being cancelled in gameweek 17.

Sport plays an important role in economic and social development. Governments recognise its importance, as seen by the Political Declaration of the 2030 Agenda, which highlights “the contribution sports contribute to the empowerment of women and young people, individuals and communities, as well as to health, education, and social inclusion goals.”

Most major sporting events, from marathons to football tournaments, athletics championships to basketball games, handball to ice hockey, rugby, cricket, sailing, skiing, weightlifting to wrestling, and more, have been cancelled or postponed to protect the health of players and everyone participating. For the first time in the modern games’ history, the Olympics and Paralympics have been postponed and will be held in 2021.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has spread to practically every country on the planet since it began. Many routine parts of life, including sport and physical exercise, have been interrupted as a result of social and physical distancing measures, lockdowns of businesses, schools, and overall social life, which have become commonplace to combat the spread of the disease.

Thomas Frank of Brentford has requested a circuit breaker, but Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool wants to continue playing.

“Stopping the league is definitely not the best option,” Klopp added, “but we need to be more flexible with the calendar.” “If the illness has passed, I will be the first to call it a day and go home to wait for it to pass. But, since this is unlikely, what is the real benefit?”

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We look at various probable problems and solutions to keep England’s top flight running and safe over the festive period and beyond, with clubs obviously divided on the most prudent approach and the League hesitating to vote on taking any particular action on Monday.

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Why is it so difficult for the Premier League to change its schedule?

Unlike other European leagues, which have a winter break and have a larger percentage of vaccinated players, the Premier League has a packed Christmas calendar, with 19% of its players being unvaccinated.

Furthermore, the EPL’s strict testing process, which includes lateral flow tests just hours before kick-off on matchdays, leads to last-minute positives and possible call-offs. This is especially difficult for visiting teams that risk travelling to play a game just to have it postponed at the last minute.

While comprehensive testing is necessary, the inescapable result is matchday surprises and inconvenience for both broadcasters and fans. The Premier League will naturally put health first, but it will also be concerned that suspending the league now, in the midst of an anticipated Omicron wave in January, will make it impossible to relaunch and complete fixtures on time.

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Even a minor ban might cause up to three match weeks (19-21) to be postponed, with no clear timetable for rescheduling those 30 games. The amount of time clubs spend in the Champions League and FA Cup in 2022 could determine how many gaps there are in the calendar. However, the season must end on May 22, and there are only two free midweeks between now and then.

The other difficulty, if the EPL stays the same, is a lack of clarity regarding the criteria for when a game can be called off. A match can be postponed if a club cannot field 14 players, according to Appendix 17 of the Premier League’s manual.

However, two delay appeals for Leicester’s match against Tottenham on December 16 were denied before the game was called off due to more positive tests from the Foxes.


Spurs’ Europa League clash against Rennes, which was also postponed, has a similar level of uncertainty. The criteria for calling a game off differ across Europe’s leagues and federations, and Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is not alone in requesting “greater clarity” and consistency. No one wants a situation like the one in Portugal, where Covid-affected Belenenses were obliged to start their match against Benfica with nine men and were 7-0 down at halftime before the game was called off, but everyone wants to know the regulations and have them implemented fairly and evenly.

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