A number of Premier League matches have been postponed recently due to COVID-19 outbreaks at clubs.
The League appreciates that calling off fixtures is very disappointing and inconvenient for supporters, and it is always with regret that these decisions are made.
The Premier League Board always aims to make their evaluations quickly, giving as much warning to fans as possible, but there will be circumstances where games are postponed at short notice if there are issues on a matchday.
The health and safety of everybody remains our priority. Where possible, the League will endeavour to keep supporters updated if games become at risk of being postponed on a matchday.
It is the responsibility of the Board to decide whether matches should be postponed for COVID-19 reasons.
Clubs may apply to the Premier League if they believe that a match should be postponed in accordance with the Premier League’s rules and postponement guidance.
That guidance has been adapted to address the challenges posed by the recent spike in infection numbers caused by the Omicron variant.
Each application is considered on its merits and any decision to postpone a fixture will be confirmed publicly by the Premier League immediately after the Board has reached its decision.
Clubs are asked to contact the League as soon as they suspect that an application might need to be submitted.
The application should be made as far in advance of the match as possible, to provide clarity for fans and clubs, and to make sure the Board has all the necessary details to make a fully informed decision.
When making an application, clubs must provide the Board with the following details, together with clear reasons why they believe the match should be postponed:
- Players and staff who have returned a positive COVID-19 test, their vaccination status and, if known, the source of their infections.
- Players and staff who are self-isolating.
- Players who are unavailable to play through injury or illness.
- Players listed on the club’s squad list who are still available to play in the match, including appropriately experienced Under-21 players (which includes Under-21 players who have played for the club, another Premier League or EFL club, or an overseas club in the current season. However, any Under-21 player who participates in a club’s FA Cup Round Three match and has not played in any other first-team competitions for the club this season will not be considered by the Board as appropriately experienced).
- Supporting medical information to verify the status of each unavailable player, which will be reviewed by the League’s medical advisers.
There is considerable dialogue between the club and the Premier League during the application process to establish the facts and fully assess the overall situation prior to any decision. This will include discussions between the club and League’s medical advisors, and if appropriate, the UK Health Security Agency.
Premier League rules provide a framework and discretion to the Board to assess whether a postponement application should be accepted.
As the guidance shows, the Board will consider the following principal 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. In such cases, there must be a minimum of four COVID-19 cases within the list of unavailable players.
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 Board has applied these factors in recent postponements, with examples including:
- Where a club has been unable to field 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper for a match due to COVID-19 infections, injuries, illness and/or those isolating.
- Where the status of a COVID-19 outbreak within a club’s squad remains unclear very close to a match. For example, where there remains a concern that not all COVID-19 infections have been identified and there is insufficient time to resolve that concern before kick-off.
- Where the club does not have sufficient time to safely prepare its players in the lead up to a match. For example, where the UK Health Security Agency has requested the closure of a training ground and suspension of group training following an outbreak during the preparation period ahead of a match.