Liverpool vs Leeds and Wolves vs Watford postponed on Boxing Day due to Covid-19 cases - Independent 23/12/21

Leeds’ training ground has been closed after fresh Covid cases while several Watford players remain in isolation following their outbreak last week

Lawrence Ostlere

Liverpool’s Premier League match with Leeds United and Watford’s visit to Wolves on Boxing Day have both been postponed due to Covid-19 cases among the away squads.

Both Leeds and Watford put in requests this week to call off their respective away games, which had been scheduled for 12.30pm on Sunday 26 December.

Leeds’ squad had already been decimated by injuries and illness, forcing head coach Marcelo Bielsa to name several youth players among his substitutes in their weekend defeat by Arsenal. Fresh cases of Covid-19 in the camp have further limited his options, and the club’s training ground has been closed after advice from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Watford still have several players in isolation following cases in the build-up to last weekend’s postponed fixture with Crystal Palace. However, their match with West Ham on 28 December is expected to go ahead.

The Premier League said its board had taken the decisions as early as possible in order to avoid situations which have arisen in recent weeks when matches have been called off with as little as two hours’ notice, like Burnley’s visit to Aston Villa, much to the ire of travelling supporters.

The league said in a statement: “The board today was able to make its decisions in advance of Boxing Day to give clarity to clubs and their supporters. We apologise for the inconvenience and disruption caused to those fans’ festive plans.

“The league is aware that the decision to postpone these two matches will disappoint supporters and understands their frustrations at a special time of year when fans look forward to attending and watching football games. The League aims to provide as much clarity as possible, but unfortunately postponements sometimes have to be made at short notice, as safety is the priority. The League will endeavour to keep supporters updated if games become at risk on a match day.”

The Premier League remains adamant that fixtures will go ahead where possible. Current guidelines state that where a team can field 14 senior players including a goalkeeper, they will not be granted permission to postpone a fixture.

Some rearranged matches are likely to be rescheduled in January. The Premier League has successfully persuaded the FA to do away with replays in the third and fourth rounds of the competition to keep midweek dates free, and are working with the English Football League (EFL) in the hope of reducing the Carabao Cup semi-finals from two-legged ties to a single match.

The statement added: “The board assesses applications to postpone matches on a case-by-case basis, based on existing rules and adapted Covid-19 postponement guidance introduced to clubs in light of the new Omicron variant. The board will assess a number of factors, including the ability of a club to field a team; the status, severity and potential impact of the Covid-19 outbreak at the club; and the ability of the players to safely prepare for and play the match. The board must also consider the wider risks to the opposition and other people the club representatives may come into contact with.

“While recognising a number of clubs are experiencing Covid-19 outbreaks, it is the clubs’ and the League’s collective intention to continue the current fixture schedule where safely possible. The health and wellbeing of all concerned remains our priority and the League will continue to monitor and reflect public health guidance, always proceeding with caution. In light of the recent rise in Covid-19 cases across the country, the Premier League has reintroduced emergency measures. These include protocols such as more frequent testing, wearing face coverings while indoors, observing social distancing and limiting treatment time.”

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