The surge of COVID-19 cases fueled by the spread of the Omicron variant is still hitting the Premier League hard with a growing number of clubs experiencing outbreaks that have forced the postponement of several matches.
A total of 17 Premier League games have already been called off and clubs are seeing more positive tests come back for staff and squad members.
These are the latest updates on the developing situation around the league and the Premier League’s rules regarding COVID-19 postponements.
Premier League games cancelled due to COVID-19
Tottenham’s fixture against Brighton, originally due to be played on Dec. 12, was the first Premier League game of the season to have been postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak experienced by Spurs.
A rash of other matches were subsequently postponed, including three just hours before they were due to kick off. After six of 10 matches were wiped away on the Dec. 18-19 weekend, three Boxing Day matches were affected and the postponements continue at a steady clip into 2022. No makeup dates have been announced for any of the matches as of now.
Which Premier League clubs have positive COVID cases?
A sign of just how insidious the COVID cases have become, Norwich City’s struggles to ensure the minimum 13 healthy outfield players led to two postponements two weeks apart (Dec. 18 & Jan. 1).
Wolves were among the latest teams to experience an outbreak, forcing the Premier League to grant a request to push its Dec. 28 match against Arsenal.
Everton has had three straight Premier League matches postponed and hasn’t played since a 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Dec. 16. Its next scheduled match is Sunday, Jan. 2.
Watford, which already had a Dec. 18 match postponed, didn’t have enough players to play on Boxing Day. Its return to play on Dec. 28 wasn’t pretty, losing 4-1 at home to West Ham.
After being forced to play with an undermanned side against Arsenal in a 4-1 loss on Dec. 18 (10 players missing), Leeds United was granted a postponement of its Dec. 26 match at Liverpool and its Dec. 28 home fixture against Aston Villa.
Aston Villa also succumbed to a COVID outbreak. After cancelling training on Dec. 12 but still playing a scheduled match on Dec. 14 (2-0 win at Norwich City), the outbreak spread further and forced a postponement of the Dec. 18 home game against Burnley. The Villans returned to play on Boxing Day.
Similar to Villa, Leicester City traveled to Italy without several players on Dec. 9 for a Europa League group game against Napoli. The Foxes lost the match 3-2 to drop into the Conference League knockout playoffs. Then the Foxes’ Premier League matches on Dec. 16 and Dec. 19 were eventually postponed, but they returned to action in the Carabao Cup on Dec. 22.
Premier League vaccination rate
According to a Reuters report on Dec. 13, there were a single-week record 42 new cases among Premier League players and staff from Dec. 6-12.
The following week saw more than double that amount to 90 (Dec. 13-19), and then the positive cases hit a record 103 (Dec. 20-26).
- Dec. 6-12: 42 new cases
- Dec. 13-19: 90 new cases
- Dec. 20-26: 103 new cases
There were only 100 total positive tests between Aug. 2 and Dec. 5.
With teams forced to navigate the challenges caused by the outbreaks, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp recently made the case for greater transparency on numbers and players affected:
Premier League rules on postponing matches due to COVID
The Premier League handbook itself states that the league’s board can “only permit the rearrangement or postponement of a league match in exceptional circumstances”.
Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis for each club, and there are no set rules that will determine whether or not a fixture will get cancelled. According to the league, sporting and medical factors are taken into account in each of these decisions.
Been alerted to Premier League handbook, which states if both clubs have 14 players (mainly outfielders) available then the fixture should be played. Safety and welfare is, of course, factored into decision-making regarding Covid cases as well.
— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) December 15, 2021
Following the cancellation of Man United vs. Brentford match on Dec. 14, the Premier League introduced new “emergency measures” to combat the further spread of COVID-19, with the league’s players and staff having to take a lateral flow test every day in order to access training grounds.
In addition to the daily tests to get into training grounds, players and staff are taking a PCR test at least twice a week.
Additional measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing continue to be enforced.
COVID-19 situation in the UK
The spike in positive cases comes at a time when the United Kingdom has been facing yet another COVID-19 outbreak with the new Omicron variant.
In October the Premier League indicated that 69 per cent of players had been fully vaccinated, with 81 per cent having received their first dose.
On Dec. 21 the EPL updated its numbers: 92 per cent of players and club staff had received one, two or three COVID-19 vaccination doses, with 84 per cent of players on the vaccination journey.
But concerns remain with those who choose to stay unvaccinated, while booster jabs continue to be implemented in the country for those eligible.
For fans attending matches in England, they will have to produce proof of double vaccination or a negative test to go to events with crowds that exceed 10,000 people.