Over the festive period in the UK, there were multiple media reports of top-flight players flouting the rules and whilst the action looks set to continue, there has been a growing sense of discontent among fans and analysts alike. Testing in the UK is at its most advanced level since the pandemic began and Premier League players, officials and staff are now being tested twice a week–in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus.
36 positive tests returned positive in the latest two round of testing in the Premier League between 4th & 10th January, with clear protocols for players and clubs to follow should they come into contact with the virus.
Whilst the numbers across the Premier League have increased in recent weeks, it is important to note that testing provision has doubled in number across the league since the turn of the year. All clubs are subject to two rounds of testing weekly and it is not just the playing staff being tested–nearly 1,300 people per testing session are having their results recorded.
As opposed to other sports, Premier League footballers are not being kept in bio-secure bubbles that are now commonplace in top level cricket, tennis, and snooker. Consequently, backroom staff, players and club officials alike are also potentially coming into contact with the virus when they go about their daily lives.
The protocol within the Premier League is a moveable feast and whilst it is impossible to keep every team happy, there is growing discontent amongst some clubs. Fulham were given 72 hours’ notice that they would be required to take on Tottenham, much to the angst of manager Scott Parker. Aston Villa are the latest club to have endured an outbreak at the club, with fixtures called off and the Villains were forced to play their youth team in a FA Cup tie against Liverpool last weekend. Whilst there will be little sympathy from the clubs further down in the footballing pyramid, the ad-hoc approach to the season is rubbing some players and fans up the wrong way and the lack of governance from the FA and Premier League is concerning those involved in the game.
Will the league be postponed?
The likelihood of football being postponed in the UK (at the elite level) looks very slim. As an industry, football and the associated markets are worth billions of pounds per annum and the UK government will be reluctant to miss out on any associated windfalls.
Furthermore, the schedule within world football is tight–with Euro 2021 on the horizon for this summer, the Tokyo Olympics also lined up and with the 2022 World Cup in Qatar closing in, the backlog of fixtures could be unmanageable.
Players are constantly being reminded to be vigilant in their endeavours and with Premier League games on the television seemingly every night, football fans are spoilt for choice currently.