Brentford boss Thomas Frank has demanded that this weekend’s round of Premier league fixtures are postponed after his side became the latest top-flight club to been hit by a major Covid outbreak.
In a remarkable press conference on Thursday morning, Frank called for the league’s upcoming round of fixtures to be called off when he was interrupted and told mid-question that the club had recorded four more positive cases overnight – taking the total to 13.
Frank initially told reporters the total was at nine but had to update those in attendance that the virus had spread again.
Frank saw his side’s clash with Manchester United postponed on Tuesday as the country deals with the Omicron variant, with Burnley’s match with Watford on Wednesday becoming the third Premier League fixture in a week to be called off.
And now the Dane is calling for drastic measures and would like to see a break in play to help manage the situation across the league.
Brentford manager Thomas Frank has called for this weekend’s Premier League games to be postponed after they became the latest top-flight side to suffer a Covid outbreak
‘We think we should postpone the full round of Premier League games this weekend,’ he said on Thursday morning.
‘Covid cases are going through the roof at all Premier League clubs, everyone is dealing with it and having problems.
‘To postpone this round and also the Carabao Cup round would give everyone a week at least, or four or five days to clean and do everything at the training ground so everything is clean and you break the chain.
‘Also in football, you need close contact. Physios need to do their job with players in treatment. We are in dressing room on matchdays, we are travelling by coaches so it’s a little bit more difficult to work from home.’
The Bees have recorded 13 positive cases among players and club staff as of Thursday
Brentford boss Frank insists teams need a gap in the schedule to help ‘break the chain’
THE GAMES FRANK WANTS CALLED OFF
Manchester United vs Brighton
Aston Villa vs Burnley
Southampton vs Brentford
Watford vs Crystal Palace
West Ham vs Norwich
Leeds vs Arsenal
Everton vs Leicester
Wolves vs Chelsea
Newcastle vs Manchester City
Tottenham vs Liverpool
Arsenal vs Sunderland (League Cup)
Brentford vs Chelsea (League Cup)
Liverpool vs Leicester (League Cup)
Tottenham vs West Ham (League Cup)
*Premier League unless stated
And he believes a decision to halt this weekend’s round of top-flight fixtures could be enough to sure the busy festive programme will be able to go ahead largely as planned.
‘We fully respect that we want to play and it is important football keeps going, and this way we can make sure Boxing Day keeps going, I’m 100 per cent sure of that,’ added Frank.
‘This Omicron variant is running like wildfire around the world and I think we need to do all we can to protect and avoid it. I think we can do a lot by closing down training grounds for three, four or five days, and then we can go again.’
Frank also backed players to get the vaccine, but insisted that it is up to the individual.
‘That is a free choice,’ Frank said, when asked about if players should get the vaccine.
‘It’s a free world but I will definitely recommend it. My biggest recommendation is that they should be vaccinated.’
Brentford’s outbreak comes less than 24 hours after the UK reported record-high daily Covid cases since the start of the pandemic.
There were 78,610 Covid cases reported on Wednesday – beating the previous record of 68,053 on January 8, 2021.
Elsewhere in the league, Tottenham face Leicester at the King Power Stadium tonight despite both sides writing to the Premier League to have the game postponed after they suffered similar Covid outbreaks themselves, only to have their requests turned down.
Other appeals have fallen on deaf ears, with the competition keen to ensure minimal disruption while keeping sporting integrity.
Asked whether the Premier League’s lucrative TV contracts had influenced their stance, Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers said: ‘I’m pretty sure that’s the case, yes.
Manchester United’s fixture at Brentford on Tuesday was called off thanks to an outbreak
‘In terms of players, managers and coaches, we all want to play the games. But ultimately the health of a player is the priority. If you have players available, you get a better product.’
Each request is made on a case-by-case basis. The impact on the first-team squad is key, although some point to the existence of Under 23 squads and the ability to draft youngsters into match-day squads. Both United and Spurs had to close their training grounds.
Rodgers also indicated he believes the Premier League’s more powerful clubs are being treated differently. He will be without at least 11 players — some due to Covid-19 — for the Spurs game.
Brendan Rodgers fears the Premier League are bowing to pressure from broadcasters
Both Leicester and Tottenham wanted Thursday’s fixture rearranged after Covid-19 outbreaks
HOW OMICRON HAS THE PREMIER LEAGUE ON EDGE
The Bees have 13 cases among players and staff – the club are now calling for a circuit-breaker shutdown to help clubs recover.
Will be without several players for Tottenham’s visit on Thursday due to Covid. Both clubs requested the game to be postponed but were rejected.
Case numbers are currently unknown but a large outbreak saw their game with Brentford postponed. They have also requested Saturday’s match with Brighton to be postponed.
Had request to have game with Wolves postponed rejected by the Premier League following an outbreak at the club. Graham Potter confirmed there were ‘three to four’ positive cases before the game.
Dean Smith is facing an anxious wait to discover the full extent of the outbreak at the club. Currently in discussions with the Premier League over Saturday’s clash with West Ham.
Saw the game with Burnley postponed just hours before kick-off. Case numbers currently unknown.
Spurs were the first Premier League club to be hit by the Omicron variant last week and saw games against Brighton and Rennes postponed after cases reached double digits among players and staff. Those who tested positive for the virus are expected to return in the next couple of days after completing their 10-day self-isolation period. Spurs also requested to have Thursday’s clash with Leicester postponed but were rejected.
Tottenham boss Antonio Conte is frustrated that his club were not allowed to rearrange the Leicester game in order to play their Europa Conference League tie with Rennes, which was postponed last week due to Covid.
UEFA are expected to decide this week if Spurs must forfeit the match, and be eliminated, after confirming it couldn’t be rearranged by December 31.
‘We deserve to play this game and to try to have a chance to go to the next round,’ said Conte. ‘We didn’t play through no fault of our own but because of a big problem and because the Government closed our training ground.’
Meanwhile, Norwich are fearful about their match at West Ham on Saturday. They expect to learn today whether they will have enough players available, having been hit by withdrawals for Tuesday’s 2-0 home defeat by Aston Villa.