EXCLUSIVE: Premier League set for rule change on Covid cancellations with clubs needing to prove at least FOUR positive cases to get matches called off, amid furious reaction to inconsistencies with 22 games postponed already
- Premier League set to tighten up Covid cancellation criteria after crisis talks
- Current rule has led to 22 postponements and acrimony between rival clubs
- A move away from ‘available players’ to ‘active Covid cases’ has been discussed
- Proposal backed by 18 clubs and could be brought in for next round of fixtures
Clubs may soon have to show proof of FOUR positive tests in their squads in order to have a fixture postponed under a significant, hardline shift in Covid cancellation criteria being examined by the Premier League.
Sportsmail understands that a move away from ‘available players’ to ‘active Covid cases’ has been discussed in crisis talks between the league and its members, has already won the backing of as many as 18 clubs and could come into force for the next round of fixtures.
Currently, sides who want a match called off have to show that they do not have 13 available players plus a goalkeeper, with injuries and absence on international duty taken into consideration.
The north London derby was called of when Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal had just one Covid case
That has led to a 22 postponements and acrimony between clubs, which intensified after it emerged Arsenal managed to get the North London derby postponed despite having only one confirmed positive case.
Instead, to request the calling off of a match, a club would have to show proof of four positive tests within its playing squad, sources have disclosed. And that figure would be seen as a ‘minimum requirement’ rather than an automatic trigger for cancellation.
Chief executive Richard Masters, stung by criticism and the outbreak of hostility and accusation among top flight sides, has moved to take action.
Burnley’s match against Leicester was one of 22 Covid-related postponements this season
With no official meeting planned until February 10, he has called every club to gauge their opinion on the switch and is said to have considerable backing.
One issue looming large over the talks, however, is the prospect of legal action. As the Mail on Sunday reported yesterday, clubs who feel that there has been an inconsistency in the matches already postponed could seek damages. Some feel the rules are being abused by those who have players missing on Africa Cup of Nations duty, suspensions and injuries.
A rule change mid-season could establish legal grounds to challenge the Premier League on the basis of inconsistency and unfairness.
A rule change mid-season could establish legal grounds to challenge the Premier League
Masters is understood to be examining if the change could be installed as a change to the guidance, rather than a formal rule change. That would not need a vote of at least 14 clubs and may negate the treat of legal action, although top flight insiders insist that would not be the motivation. Some clubs may even be asked to formally state that they would not look to sue, should the change take place.
There are concerns, should it go to a vote, that those who go in favour would then not be able to take legal action further down the line.
‘It’s a minefield,’ said one official. ‘They’re trying to shut the door after the horse has bolted and the ramifications are endless.’
The Premier League declined to comment.