Two Premier League games postponed as Covid-19 continues to damage sport
The coronavirus outbreak in Leeds and Watford has caused two Premier League games scheduled for Sunday (UK time) to be postponed in the latest disruption to the competition caused by rising Covid-19 cases in the squad.
Leeds will travel to Liverpool and Watford are set to play at Wolverhampton as part of a Boxing Day program which still features seven games.
The Premier League has now canceled 12 games due to coronavirus concerns in two weeks, with players having to be isolated after testing positive or if they were not vaccinated and were in close contact with a Covid-19 case.
“The League recognizes that the decision to postpone these two games will disappoint supporters and understands their frustration at this particular time of year when fans look forward to attending and watching football matches,” the Premier League said in a statement on Thursday.
Matches were also scrapped in the league, with six of Sunday’s 10 games in the Championship’s second division postponed.
Leeds’ training ground has been closed to contain the spread of the coronavirus, with five new positive cases among the squad and staff reported on Thursday.
“All the cases we have experienced are asymptomatic which we believe is due to the high use of our vaccine,” the Leeds club said in a statement. “The positive case, combined with our well-documented injury concerns, means we will not have enough recognized first-team players to meet Premier League requirements for the match.”
Watford told the league that with the player out of isolation expected to play West Ham on Tuesday.
Confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK, where the omicron variant is now dominant, have jumped by nearly 60 per cent in a week.
After hitting a record 90 positive cases last week, the Premier League is urging players to be vaccinated with 16 per cent yet to receive a single dose. While more than 90 percent of players in the Italian and Spanish leagues have been fully vaccinated, the Premier League said Monday that only 77 percent of its players are double-vaccinated.
Scottish football has also advanced its winter break but Boxing Day matches will go ahead, albeit with a crowd of just 500 people. Rangers, whose headquarters at Ibrox accommodate 44,000, said: “We share the immense frustration of our loyal fans, who will have ensured the match will be a sellout, however, we are now only able to welcome a small part of the stadium.
First Deputy Secretary John Swinney responded to the criticism by saying: “We need to reduce the level of interaction between people. [This] sends a very clear signal that we need to reduce that interaction.”
And while Serie A is in for a planned winter break in Italy, Serie B has postponed two full rounds of matches scheduled for Sunday and Wednesday following a string of positive cases that resulted in two matches being postponed in the previous round. The second division will resume on January 13.
The final game of the year in Serie A is played on Wednesday, with the next fixture scheduled for January 6. One match scheduled for Tuesday, Udinese-Salernitana, was not played.
Meanwhile, Formula One is considering imposing mandatory vaccination against the coronavirus for the 2022 season as the sport continues to grapple with the challenge of keeping the show on the road in the pandemic.
In contrast, the English Rugby Football League (RFL) has ruled out mandatory vaccination, but was forced to delay the restoration of the scrum for the 2022 season amid insufficient vaccination rates.
F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali told Autosport magazine that vaccinations could become mandatory in the paddock.
“Having finished the season with 22 races, it makes us cautiously optimistic about what the start of the 2022 season will be, where unfortunately Covid may still be around,” said Domenicali.
“But it’s no coincidence that one of the last things that was approved at the last FIA World Council, as a precautionary measure, was to vaccinate all F1 staff to be in the paddock.”
“Having finished a season with 22 races, it makes us cautiously optimistic for what the start of the 2022 season should be like, where alas Covid may still be present,” Domenicali said.
“But it is no coincidence that one of the last things approved in the last FIA World Council, as a precaution, is to have all F1 staff vaccinated to be in the paddock.”
Next season is due to begin in Bahrain on March 20 with the traditional season-opener in Australia, which retains strict entry requirements and quarantine rules, delayed to April.
The RFL planned to reintroduce scrums if 85 per cent of players had been double-vaccinated by December 31, but with that threshold not yet having been met in either the Super League (80.66 percent) or the Championship (81.71 percent), a decision was postponed until the end of January.
Karen Moorhouse, the RFL’s Chief Regulatory Officer, said: “We have not mandated vaccination, but we have worked with clubs to encourage their players to do their part.”
The RFL has urged clubs to encourage all their players to have booster jabs as those taking part in scrums who have not been vaccinated would currently be required to self-isolate for 10 days as close contacts of anyone who tested positive.