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The EFL postpone MORE THAN HALF of their matches due to Covid outbreaks

Nineteen games have now been called off this weekend because of outbreaks of Covid within Football League clubs

The postponements follow the EFL moving to a ‘red protocol’ yesterday, in which all 72 clubs are now required to test players for Covid every day.

It means more than half of the games in the Championship, Leagues One and Two will not take place this weekend. 

Covid testing in EFL is now being done weekly to stem the spread of the virus in clubs

The virus is causing havoc in sport, and football in particular, with nine Premier League matches also cancelled this week, five of them at the weekend.

The ultra-infectious Omicron strain of the virus is causing a huge wave of new cases across the country, which has engulfed many clubs. 

The disruption has prompted some top-flights sides to call for a ‘festive firebreak’ in a bid to stem the march of Covid and restore squads. The Premier League is due to meet with shareholders on Monday to discuss this option.

However, the chairman of the EFL, Rick Parry says that is not under consideration in the Football League.

Following introduction of daily tests clubs have detected more Covid cases - matches are off

Following introduction of daily tests clubs have detected more Covid cases – matches are off 

‘If we thought that a break this weekend would actually work and save the Christmas programme then we might do it but there is zero evidence to suggest that it would make any difference at this point in time,’ he told The Times.

POSTPONED FIXTURES

Saturday 18 December

Sky Bet Championship

Cardiff City v Derby County

Coventry City v Stoke City

Millwall v Preston

QPR v Swansea City

Reading v Luton Town

Sky Bet League One

AFC Wimbledon v Portsmouth

Bolton Wanderers v Wycombe Wanderers

Burton v MK Dons

Gillingham v Crewe Alexandra

Lincoln City v Doncaster Rovers

Sheffield Wednesday v Accrington Stanley

Sky Bet League Two

Carlisle United v Bradford City

Colchester United v Hartlepool United

Crawley Town v Oldham Athletic

Forest Green Rovers v Mansfield Town

Northampton Town v Barrow

Port Vale v Exeter City

Scunthorpe United v Bristol Rovers

Swindon Town v Walsall

 

‘It might be different next week or at a point in the future depending on what is happening in the country but there is nothing at the moment to say that if we did call everything off for the weekend then we would save Boxing Day.

‘If we can save some of the games in the programme when we will and as ever we will make the safety of players, staff and supporters our priority.’

Some EFL clubs are susceptible to Covid outbreaks, since one quarter of players have no vaccination to Covid-19 despite months of encouragement from the EFL and clubs to get jabbed – and currently don’t intend to have one.

Only 59 per cent of players have received two vaccinations, with a further 16 per cent having had a single dose and prepared to have another one.

The alarming figures have changed little in the last two months following a major push by the EFL, clubs and the deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Jonathan Van Tam.

Even so, a break in fixtures may not be of any value. Public health expert, Professor Paul Hunter, told Sportsmail there is little benefit in a ‘circuit breaker’ while the number of Covid infections in the community is rising so rapidly as a result of Omicron. 

The academic predicted more than a week ago that the Omicron variant would wreak havoc in football because it is particularly prevalent in the 20-30 age group and footballers have a patchy record on vaccination, meaning many are still short of their booster jab, with a significant proportion unvaccinated. 

‘The question is, ‘would a circuit break mean they would go back afterwards and everything would be OK’? And the answer is ‘no’,’ said Prof Hunter. ‘It is likely it would just delay the inevitable.’

He has warned the ‘majority’ of clubs will experience an outbreak of Covid and once it has penetrated a squad’s bubble it can spread extremely quickly. While rates of Covid-19 infection remain high in the community, clubs will continue to be affected.

‘What is driving the pandemic is not football, it is everything around it in the community. Players will still be interacting with their families, their children…’ said Prof Hunter.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van Tam has encouraged players to have jab

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van Tam has encouraged players to have jab

‘The risk to football will be greater at the end of a one-week circuit break because of what is going on in the community, because cases are going up quickly.’

‘So, even if you had a circuit break, you would still be cancelling games when you came back.

‘If I was running football… I would play on and cope with the fact you will have to cancel quite a few games in the next six weeks or so,’ said Prof Hunter.

‘[For a circuit break to work] you would have to have a break until [the wave of infection] has subsided in the country and I am assuming that will be by the end of January.’ 

Millwall's Championship match at Preston has been postponed because of a Covid outbreak

Millwall’s Championship match at Preston has been postponed because of a Covid outbreak

EFL MATCH GUIDE

• Check the Club’s latest COVID-19 guidance in advance of matchday and read its COVID Code of Conduct.

• Ensure you have a valid form of COVID certification 

• The best form of certification is the NHS  COVID pass. 

• Bring your original printed NHS COVID Pass on the day of the fixture if you are unable to use digital version.

• A negative Lateral Flow test result will be permissible should you be unable to provide a COVID pass

• Make sure your passes are easily accessible to ensure speed of access when approaching the turnstiles.

The EFL is asking fans attending the surviving games to make sure they are prepared to comply with safety measures under the Government’s Plan B.

Covid passes are now mandatory for indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 fans or more standing or seated venues with a capacity of 10,000 or more, which will include most Championship matches, as well as some in lower divisions.

In addition, fans will have to wear masks in indoor areas of the stadium.

The EFL is urging supporters to check their club’s latest Covid guidance before attending the game, to make sure they have all they need to gain entry.

Some clubs, including Cambridge United, have imposed more stringent safety measures than those strictly required by law, and are asking fans to be ready to show Covid certification at their home League One game against Rotherham United.

In a statement the club said. ‘Following Wednesday’s meeting with Public Health Cambridge and the Safety Advisory Group, it quickly became clear that these measures are necessary to protect our supporters and to avoid more stringent restrictions in the near future.’

Meanwhile, half of this weekend’s fixtures in England’s top-flight have been called off due to widespread cases among many clubs.

Manchester United’s clash with Brighton on Saturday lunchtime was one of five matches called off this weekend, with the top-flight striking off four matches in one go late on Thursday. 

The Premier League will hold a meeting to discuss the coronavirus situation on Monday

The Premier League will hold a meeting to discuss the coronavirus situation on Monday

Ralf Rangnick’s United had just seven players available for the weekend visit of the Seagulls and have closed their Carrington training base until Tuesday. The club’s next game after that is a trip to Newcastle on December 27.  

PREMIER LEAGUE GAMES POSTPONED SO FAR

Brighton vs Tottenham – Sunday, December 12

Brentford vs Man United – Tuesday, December 14

Burnley vs Watford – Wednesday, December 15

Leicester vs Tottenham – Thursday, December 16

Man Utd vs Brighton – Saturday, December 18

Southampton vs Brentford – Saturday, December 18

Watford vs Crystal Palace – Saturday, December 18

West Ham vs Norwich – Saturday, December 18

Everton vs Leicester – Sunday, December 19   

Overall, nine matches have been called off due to outbreaks sparked by the Omicron variant, starting from Tottenham’s match with Brighton on December 12 to the five weekend matches called off on Thursday. 

Premier League managers have differed in their views to temporarily stop the season, after Brentford manager Thomas Frank came out announcing his club’s desire to announce a temporary stop.

The Danish manager claimed the variant is ‘running like wildfire’ around the world and that shutting down football for at least a week would help clubs get things under control.  

Frank told a press conference on Thursday morning: ‘It 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.

While other bosses are seeking more clarity from the Premier League, Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Burnley’s Sean Dyche have indicated they believe the show should go on.

Klopp announced after his side’s 3-1 victory over Newcastle on Thursday night – which saw Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho both miss the game due to Covid – that he sees no point of a ‘circuit breaker’ stop. 

Klopp told his post-match press conference on Thursday: ‘Stopping the league is probably not the right thing but with the schedule we have to be more flexible. We have three players out because of Covid. 

‘Then we play on the 26th and the 28th (of December) and you have 13 players available, that’s not possible. There are plenty of questions we need to find answers for but I don’t have the solution.’ 

QPR had to call off Monday's Championship clash with Sheffield United due to an outbreak

 QPR had to call off Monday’s Championship clash with Sheffield United due to an outbreak

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