Footballers’ Covid tests on the day of matches are SCRAPPED for the EFL’s 72 clubs

Footballers at EFL clubs will no longer take Covid tests on matchdays in a bid to stop last-minute postponements of games, but public health experts have questioned the move as all 72 clubs continue to battle surging cases.

The Football League has abandoned matchday tests  in response to a number of late decisions, which left away fans stranded when games were called off only a few hours before kick off.

The last-minute postponements have angered supporters and concerned clubs. But now, the EFL’s medical advisors have agreed testing on the day of the game only needs to happen if a player is showing symptoms of Covid.

Footballers will no longer be required to take Covid tests on the day of EFL matches

Experts warn the risk of allowing Covid to break into a team bubble will increase as a result and while clubs may benefit initially by getting a game on in front of fans, they could end up cancelling subsequent matches as Covid spreads.

Blackburn Rovers fans made the 114-mile trip to Hull on Boxing Day to discover that the game had been called off just two hours before kick off.  

On Boxing Day. only nine of the 32 scheduled EFL matches went ahead as clubs battle with the surge of Covid cases in dressing rooms. Just two of the planned second tier games were played on Boxing Day, too. 

In a similar vein, Wednesday saw 19 out of 28 EFL games postponed, with only two out of 11 League Two fixtures going ahead. 

On Thursday morning, Tranmere Rovers announced that their game against Salford City would be postponed as a result of a spate of cases at the club. 

The EFL medical staff took the decision to suspend match day testing in consultation with some club doctors, Sportsmail understands.

Rovers fans made the trip before learning of the postponement two hours before kick off

Rovers fans made the trip before learning of the postponement two hours before kick off

Some 83 EFL games have now been postponed, more than last season, which was also heavily affected by Covid.

Players will still be monitored and will be tested if they are showing any symptoms of the virus. In addition, the EFL believes it’s protocols, which include, daily tests outside of match days, social distancing, separating players according to vaccination status and wearing masks, will reduce the risk of transmission.

However, the move has surprised some experts.

‘It does not make much sense,’ said Dr Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at the University of Leicester.

‘If your point is to stop transmission among your team mates and opponents, missing tests does not much help to prevent that situation. It may help fans to enjoy that game but it increases the chance of the next match being affected.’

The EFL has been hit by a spate of late postponements, including Hull v Blackburn Rovers

The EFL has been hit by a spate of late postponements, including Hull v Blackburn Rovers

Dr Tang said it is hard to predict the increased risk of spreading the virus among a team by missing a test on matchdays because that will depend on the level of infection in the local area and vaccination status of the players. However, it will increase the chance of the virus penetrating the club’s bubble, and as has been seen now at many clubs, once in, Omicron can spread at alarming speed.

‘There is a risk that you get your fans in for one game, but if the players test positive after the game they may have spread [the virus] to their team mates and the club may then have to cancel more than one game [since the players will have to isolate].

‘I do not think it is a good idea. You may save one game but then have to cancel two others. It does not really make sense. The reasoning [for testing] still applies on a match day.

‘As Omicron is still spreading, if you dodge a bullet on one game, the following week, the chances of that bullet hitting you is higher.’

EFL players will now only be tested on matchday if they are showing coronavirus symptoms

EFL players will now only be tested on matchday if they are showing coronavirus symptoms

An EFL Spokesperson said: ‘Over the past week, it has become clear that the requirement for matchday testing has caused significant concern and uncertainty at Clubs as well as seriously affecting the supporters of those teams.

‘As a result, the League revisited the matter with its Medical Advisors and after careful consideration, which included dialogue with a significant number of Club Doctors, it was determined that the requirement for matchday testing would be removed, except for those individuals who display COVID symptoms.

‘Daily testing will continue on non-matchdays with Clubs following the updated red protocols which remain our biggest protection against the transmission of COVID in a footballing environment as we collectively look to navigate our way through these challenging and unprecedented times.’

The Premier League are not affected by the EFL’s new protocols. Earlier this month, Sportsmail reported that England’s top-flight tests its stars nine times a week, with players taking daily lateral flow tests and two PCR tests a week. 

At a shareholders’ meeting of all 20 clubs on December 14, it was agreed to dramatically increase the level of testing and adopt the new schedule, although Sportsmail understands testing is optional on non training days.

Premier League stars take PCR test the day before a match, and the wait for those results has led to some late postponements, such as Watford’s trip to Burnley, as well as Sean Dyche’s side’s game against Aston Villa.