he Premier League has rejected talk of a ‘cooling-off period’ or ‘circuit breaker’ in January, despite Tottenham vs Fulham being the second game this week to be postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak.
The Premier League board’s decision followed the postponement of Manchester City’s match at Everton on Monday following an outbreak at the Etihad Stadium club, although Burnley vs Sheffield United went ahead, despite a “couple” of Blades players and “half a dozen” members of staff testing positive.
The cooling-off period, in which all matches would be postponed, is reportedly due to be discussed by clubs, although no talks on the proposal have so far taken place.
In a statement confirming the postponement of Wednesday’s London derby, the Premier League made clear that it is not in favour of a temporary break, saying it had full faith in its Covid-19 protocols and ability to fulfil its remaining fixtures as scheduled.
“With low numbers of positive tests across the overwhelming majority of clubs, the Premier League continues to have full confidence in its COVID-19 protocols and being able to continue to play our fixtures as scheduled,” a Premier League spokesperson said.
The statement added: “Fulham FC’s match at Tottenham Hotspur, due to be played at 6pm this evening, has been postponed following a Premier League Board meeting this afternoon.
“Fulham lodged a request with the Premier League Board to rearrange the fixture following a significant rise in positive Covid-19 cases, as well as a number of players showing symptoms today.
“The Premier League Board has consulted its medical advisors and the decision to postpone the game has been taken as a precaution and with the health of players and staff as the priority. The group will now be retested immediately.
“The League wishes those with Covid-19 a safe and speedy recovery and will rearrange the postponed fixture between Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham in due course.”
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There were 18 positive cases across the top-flight in the latest round of testing – the highest since the start of the pandemic – with City, Arsenal and the Blades also confirming positive cases.
The League has increased testing to twice weekly in Tier 4 areas in a bid to get the spread of the virus under control.
West Brom manager Sam Allardyce has backed a circuit breaker, saying after his side’s defeat at Leeds on Tuesday: “When I listen to the news the variant virus transmits quicker than the original virus, we can only do the right thing which is have a circuit break.
“I am 66 years old and the last thing I want to do is catch Covid. I’m very concerned for myself and football in general. If that’s what needs to be done we need to do it.”
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said he “can’t see the benefit” of a break, however, while Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta said he would support any measure that protects “the welfare of the players, the staff and everybody in the industry”.
The Premier League said a new date for Spurs-Fulham would be announced ‘in due course’ but the top flight is already short of midweeks to reschedule the fixture and the situation will worsen if either club makes a deep run in the FA Cup.