Gary Neville has led calls for the Premier League and EFL to stop cancelling festive fixtures over Covid concerns.
Throughout December, 16 top-flight encounters have been called off so far, with Newcastle’s trip to Everton the latest to be postponed.
The decision was taken after the North East side requested the game be put back after an outbreak of the virus in their playing squad was compounded by a series of serious injuries picked up during their 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Monday evening.
Gary Neville has suggested Manchester United should have played through their Covid crisis
The pundit has said the Premier League and EFL must stop the swathe of postponements
Newcastle had named a squad that included just eight substitutes instead of nine on Monday – two of which were goalkeepers. Injuries to Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin and Ryan Fraser have seen Eddie Howe’s pool of available players further shrink.
However, Neville has reacted to the latest decision by calling into question the reasons for allowing games to be cancelled, suggesting that all clubs have access to youth players capable of topping up a depleted first-team squad.
‘The PL and EFL ( in particular ) have got to stop these cancellations unless in exceptional circumstances,’ the Sky Sports pundit wrote on Twitter.
‘Each club has 40-50 players including youth team as a minimum. If it’s the carabao cup or EFL trophy they find a team without fielding the first 11. Get on with it.’
Newcastle have had their Everton clash called off after injuries added to their Covid outbreak
Newcastle are far from the only team to be struck by an outbreak, with the likes of Watford, Tottenham, Arsenal and even Neville’s own Manchester United being caught out by the more virulent omicron strain.
But Neville insists that there is no bias in his view, stating that he believed Ralf Rangnick’s side should have been forced to field a depleted squad, too, instead of cancelling matches with Brentford and Brighton.
Called out by one fan, who accused the former Red Devil of only voicing an opinion now United have recovered from the setback, he replied: ‘United should have been told to play!’
Full list of PL postponements
Brighton vs Tottenham
Brentford vs Manchester United
Burnley vs Watford
Leicester vs Tottenham
Aston Villa vs Burnley
Manchester United vs Brighton
Southampton vs Brentford
Watford vs Crystal Palace
West Ham vs Norwich
Everton vs Leicester
Burnley vs Everton
Liverpool vs Leeds
Wolves vs Watford
Arsenal vs Wolves
Leeds vs Aston Villa
Everton vs Newcastle
No fewer than 16 Premier League matches have been postponed over Covid outbreaks
Ralf Rangnick saw his side’s clashes with Brentford and Brighton both called off over Covid
It is not solely in the Premier League where postponements are a problem. A staggering 52 games have been postponed in the Football League, with more games failing to take place than actually going ahead across the three divisions.
Supporters are calling for clarity on the situation, with some complaining of a lack of consistency and clarity on the rules surrounding available players.
One Everton fan, commenting on the postponement of Everton against Newcastle, wrote: ‘We need transparency. How many Covid cases? How many injuries? Lacks consistency and credibility.’
Neville has suggested that clubs should utilise Under-23 players and youth squads for games
PREMIER LEAGUE RULES ON COVID POSTPONEMENTS
The Premier League Board will consider the following factors when making a decision:
1) The impact of COVID-19 infections on a club’s squad, as well as injuries, illness and those isolating, and the number of players available on the squad list and any Under-21 players with appropriate experience. Where a club cannot field 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper either from its squad list or its appropriately experienced Under-21 players, the match will be postponed.
2) The status of any COVID-19 outbreak within a club, including the number of individuals affected, the sequence and source of infections and their proximity to the match in question.
3) A club’s ability to safely prepare its players in the lead-up to a match.
4) Medical advice as to whether there is any unacceptable risk to the health and safety of players and staff by playing the match.
5) Any advice from UK Health Security Agency and other public bodies.
6) Any other exceptional circumstances.
The Premier League has issued guidance as to what factors they will take into consideration when they receive a request from postponement from a club.
As a rule, they state that: ‘Where a club cannot field 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper either from its squad list or its appropriately experienced Under-21 players, the match will be postponed.’
Appropriate experience is defined by the Premier League as having made at least one appearance for their current club, another Premier League or EFL club, or an overseas team.
There are other events in which games can be called off, for example, if the scale of an outbreak has not been fully determined by a club close to the start of a match, or where a club have been unable to fully prepare due to the closure of their training facilities.
Neville has already tweeted his opinion that clubs should be putting more faith in their young players.
On Tuesday, replying to talkSPORT presenter Adrian Durham on the ability for Championship sides to field teams, he wrote: ‘No way these clubs can’t get a team out. We’ve seen in the PL when teams requests are rejected they end up playing near on full strength line-ups.
‘Time for clubs to get on with it and trust their young players unless in exceptional circumstances.’