Premier League rejected further request to postpone match due to Covid cases

The Premier League has rejected at least one request for a match to be postponed due to positive Covid-19 cases this week.

The match between Tottenham and Brighton last Sunday had to be called off due to an outbreak at the north London club, while late on Monday night the league announced the Brentford vs Manchester United match had been postponed.

But it is understood there was at least one additional request this week which was not granted, with the league only publicly announcing approved postponements.

Norwich boss Dean Smith has criticised what he sees as a lack of clarity concerning the criteria for a game to be postponed.

Clubs agreed and voted on the regulations concerning postponements, but the Premier League board has to consider each set of circumstances individually.

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The league has reintroduced Covid emergency measures across all clubs and added in extra testing in the wake of a season-high 42 positive Covid cases being recorded last week and amid worldwide concern over the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the virus.

Any player or member of staff must take a lateral flow test in their car before entering a training ground, and PCR tests will be administered at least twice a week.

The league has not published vaccination rates among players since October, but is conscious of the importance of vaccination in the current climate and is reviewing the data with a view to providing an update.

The rules for spectators have also changed from Wednesday, with the Government’s Covid Plan B measures coming into force in England.

Fans attending a venue holding more than 10,000 people must be prepared to provide proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow test taken within 48 hours of the match.

However, only around 20 per cent are likely to be spot-checked, with the precise percentages agreed between each club, its local safety advisory group (SAG) and the local public health authority.

There is an appreciation that checking a higher percentage could create public health issues if crowds build up, although clubs and SAGs have been encouraged to ensure checks take place at various times and entry points to avoid the same people being checked each week, and to ensure people do not feel they can avoid checks if they arrive at a ground late.

Fans will also have to complete a self-declaration form saying they will only attend if they have proof of vaccination or a recent negative test, and it is up to individual clubs whether failure to provide certification results in any sanction beyond being turned away from the match in question.

It is understood the league is happy that negative tests form part of Plan B – initially it had been expected to vaccination-only certification which would have put stewards at the front line of arguments over vaccination status.

The effectiveness of the Covid Plan B measures and the spot-checks will be closely monitored, with local health authorities having worked with the clubs all season to flag up any outbreaks connected to matches.

Masks must be worn in indoor areas of stadiums, although this will be down to stewards to enforce, who will have to make a safety call over whether intervening will not create a flashpoint which has more serious public health implications.

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The league is not issuing any advice to supporters at this stage to limit singing, shouting or physical contact with others, and will instead mirror and amplify Government guidance as it is released.

The league is understood to have had assurances from Government that it wants to keep sport open for as long as it is possible to do so amid the renewed Covid crisis, but accepts the Premier League, along with other competitions, will be subject to any tightening of restrictions that may be deemed necessary.

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