Premier League clubs fear matches will be forced back behind closed doors after Boxing Day, even with ‘encouraging’ evidence Omicron is a milder Covid strain, as they face a nervous wait until Boris Johnson’s next announcement
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted calls to ban fans from Boxing Day matches
- But announcement could come ahead of festive fixtures starting December 28
- Health Secretary Sajid Javid says Omicron variant’s mildness is ‘encouraging’
- But he argues that is counteracted by the fact it is more contagious
Premier League clubs are said to be fearful that fixtures will be forced behind closed doors after Boxing Day, despite Health Secretary Sajid Javid hailing ‘encouraging’ news that the rampant Omicron strain of Covid-19 was milder than its predecessors.
According to The Telegraph, ‘senior club executives in England’s top tier are privately increasingly doubtful that fixtures will still have fans after December 28’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted the temptation to put fan restrictions in place in England for the packed sporting schedule on Boxing Day, despite Scotland and Wales this week announcing that they are doing so.
Fans could be shut out of matches again from December 28 given the rise in Covid cases
Health Secretary described the evidence that Omicron is a milder variant as ‘encouraging’
But with further Government announcements expected after Christmas, fans could be shut out from December 28 with 10 Premier League fixtures scheduled to take place in three days until December 30.
There is another round of matches scheduled to take place from January 1-3, which are also in danger of being played behind closed doors.
Johnson admitted earlier this week: ‘Naturally we can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas – and we’re going to keep a constant eye on the data, and we’ll do whatever it takes to protect public health.’
The news comes despite evidence that the Omicron variant leaves people 40 to 45 per cent less like to be hospitalised than the Delta variant.
FESTIVE FIXTURES IN DANGER OF BEING PLAYED WITHOUT FANS
Arsenal v Wolves
Crystal Palace v Norwich
Southampton v Tottenham
Watford v West Ham
Leeds v Aston Villa
Leicester v Liverpool
Chelsea v Brighton
Brentford v Man City
Everton v Newcastle
Man United v Burnley
Arsenal v Man City
Leicester v Norwich
Watford v Tottenham
Crystal Palace v West Ham
Brentford v Aston Villa
Everton v Brighton
Leeds v Burnley
Southampton v Newcastle
Chelsea v Liverpool
Man United v Wolves
Commenting on the analysis of more than 300,000 people, Javid admitted it was ‘encouraging news’, but also said: ‘We do know with Omicron that it does spread a lot more quickly, it is a lot more infectious than Delta, so any advantage gained from reduced risk of hospitalisation needs to be set against that.
‘If a much smaller percentage of people are at risk of hospitalisation, if that is a smaller percentage of a much larger number, there could still be significant hospitalisation.’
While some Premier League managers called for a ‘firebreak’ to cancel a round of fixtures over the festive period, many have made it clear they would be against having to play behind closed doors again.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta hopes matches are not played behind closed doors again
‘Please don’t go back to that stage,’ said Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta this week.
‘We have experienced that and it is something that we don’t like, so hopefully it is not what happens.
‘It’s a different sport and football is all about sharing it with people, and having fans around the stadiums. When it is not, it’s a completely different sport and the competition gets, I don’t know, lost. It’s not the same.
‘We will play like we have to play. What I am saying is that obviously nobody wants to go back to where we were because we have already experienced it – and it is not something we enjoyed a lot. But if we have to carry on doing that, of course we will.’