Premier League clubs will meet to discuss a potential season shutdown over the festive period as Covid continues to cause havoc with a host of games postponement occurring as a result.
The Premier League is insistent on continuing the season without any pause, despite an increasing number of English clubs being willing to back Thomas Frank’s call for a circuit break until at least 26 December.
The Premier League will hold emergency meetings with club owners and team managers next week to discuss the escalating Covid crisis, with some clubs calling for a Christmas ‘firebreak’ of fixtures.
Owners will meet with the league on Monday to receive an update on the effectiveness of emergency measures which were imposed a week ago but could not stop six Premier League fixtures from being postponed on Thursday.
Five of this weekend’s 10 scheduled matches have already been postponed due to positive Covid tests, and Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard revealed a meeting was being organised by the league early next week to tackle the club bosses’ “concerns and unanswered questions”, in particular around the criteria used by the Premier League board to grant approval to a postponement.
Individuals have been split as to whether they think the season should be temporarily halted.
Brentford boss Thomas Frank has called for a stop to the season to stem the spread.
“We think we should postpone the full round of Premier League games this weekend,” he said on Thursday morning.
“Covid cases are going through the roof at all Premier League clubs, everyone is dealing with it and having problems.
“To postpone this round and also the Carabao Cup round would give everyone a week at least, or four or five days to clean and do everything at the training ground so everything is clean and you break the chain.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, who has been a major advocate of getting players vaccinated, is not in agreement however.
He said: “Stopping the league is probably not the right thing but with the schedule we have to be more flexible.
“So far football kept it pretty much outside with the testing regimes, the massive disciplinary things for the boys did really well, but this time it is really difficult.
“I don’t see the massive benefit of it [stopping the Premier League] because we come back and it is still the same.”
Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish echoed that sentiment, stating: “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 that (a firebreaker) right now but we’ll see how things develop.’
“Rules are put in place to fill the squad. There are many reason you can and can’t fill the squad. We are all aware of the situation that is going on, we need to keep our players safe from catching Covid.
“Obviously it’s unfortunate, we’ve had situations with very key players out and have had to play. It’s the same with injuries.”
The rules governing Covid-19 postponements were voted on by the clubs, including Arsenal, and are set out in Appendix 17 of the Premier League’s 2021-22 handbook.
Each decision is taken on a case-by-case basis, but clubs are guided that if 14 or more players are available then permission will not be granted to postpone.
Clubs will be expected to utilise under-21 players with suitable experience in the Premier League, the EFL or overseas.
However the board do also consider medical advice from clubs on whether it is deemed to be an uncontrollable outbreak, in which case it is seen as unsafe to bring players together.
Tottenham’s match against Brighton last Sunday was the first to be called off for Covid-19 reasons after an outbreak at Spurs.
They are now set to play against Liverpool this weekend, and their manager Antonio Conte said: “We are ready to follow the rules and I think it’s the most important thing. If there are rules, then for sure the rules have to be the same for all the teams.”
By 3pm on Friday 19 matches across the three divisions of the EFL had also been called off.