Premier League Covid farce needs action to protect Leeds United and their competition

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Nine Premier League matches have been postponed in the space of seven days with half of this weekend’s schedule wiped out. Is it time to break the circuit?

The fixture programme is verging on farcical. The primary problem with modern football, fixture congestion, is smashing headfirst into Omicron.

A fixture list rammed with league games, cup games, Africa Cup of Nations and South American World Cup qualifiers is already squeezed by what the back end of 2022 will bring with the World Cup itself.

Fixture congestion, and this insatiable appetite for all the football all the time to decide who will win the football, is another debate for another day while lives are at risk with this real-world Covid problem.

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It is absolutely right the health of staff, players and fans is put first. If that means postponing matches, then chalk them off with as much notice as possible for all concerned. Get those infected isolated and give them the time to rest up.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Premier League was keen to push on through and ride out the storm.

“It is with regret that this is the fourth Premier League fixture to have been postponed in the past week,” a statement said after the latest Manchester United postponement.

“While recognising a number of clubs are experiencing Covid-19 outbreaks, it is the league’s intention to continue its current fixture schedule where safely possible.

“The health and wellbeing of all concerned remain our priority.”

There is a delicate balance for the league chiefs to strike. They will have external pressures from stakeholders to keep pressing on and delivering their product for the capitalist system, but there have to be questions about parity and fairness in all of this for the clubs involved.

As Marcelo Bielsa said on Thursday: “I wouldn’t like to come up against a team who has their team depleted due to Covid. I wouldn’t like to take advantage of that.”

Until the authorities clarify where the bar is set for matches to be postponed, we are in the dark on the fairness and equality behind their decisions on which games to delay and which games can go ahead.

Positive tests are rising (Image: Visionhaus/Getty Images)

If it were one game here and there being postponed it may be tolerable, but when you are wiping out half of a weekend schedule, is it not clear this virus is out of control at some clubs?

The fixture list is only going to look more and more uneven in the coming weeks. Those teams with postponements now are going to be punished further down the line when they attempt to add midweek games to their 2022 schedule.

Would it not make sense to pause for a week or two? Allow the medical professionals to get on top of matters, send players and staff home, protect their families and take off the pressure of rushing back for matches.

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Measures are being ramped up at training grounds to keep this season going. There is hope in-car tests will help clamp down on the outbreaks. These would see all staff and players tested in their cars upon arrival and kept in their vehicles until they provide a negative sample.

Ironically, Leeds United are missing half of their squad, but by injury rather than Covid. A pause would allow some of their players to return, but there is no suggestion the Whites are pushing for a circuit-breaker on the fixtures like some of their counterparts.

Some might say a pause now would set a precedent for future outbreaks which will inevitably come with this virus.

Of Omicron, England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said: “This is rather like a hairpin bend.

“We were cruising along at a reasonable speed, we’ve now got to slow right down, we’ve got to go round it.

“We’ve got to get ourselves back on track with the boosters and then we can accelerate out again.”

Premier League football was cruising along before. The hope is, once it has navigated this turn, it will cruise again, especially as temperatures rise in the spring.

A pause now will hopefully only mean more pauses in the future when there are new hairpin bends to navigate, of which there have been few since football resumed in June 2020.

Time will tell whether the pressure upon the league becomes too much, but in the interests of health and fair competition, it seems sensible to take a break and allow clubs to regain control of their training grounds.

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