Premier League to continue despite spiralling coronavirus cases
The Premier League have confirmed top-flight football will continue — despite the Omicron variant fuelling a surge in coronavirus cases.
Just four of the 10 scheduled Matchday 18 games were played at the weekend as clubs continue to deal with outbreaks.
League chiefs and club representatives held an emergency meeting earlier today to discuss the crisis but decided to pursue with the schedule where possible.
Over the next 14 days, 30 fixtures are currently set to go ahead — but that number could be significantly reduced if fresh cases are reported.
The Premier League will continue to judge matches on a game-by-game basis on whether they will go ahead or not.
A statement explained: "It was confirmed at a Premier League club meeting today that while recognising a number of clubs are experiencing coronavirus outbreaks and challenges, it is 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.
"A range of issues were discussed at this afternoon’s meeting, including the adaption of the Premier League coronavirus postponement process in response to the impact of the Omicron variant.
"The league also confirmed to clubs today that 92 per cent of players and club staff have received one, two or three vaccination doses, with 84 per cent of players on the vaccination journey.
"Players who have had one or two doses are required to wait for the appropriate time period before receiving either their second or booster vaccinations.
"The league continue to work with clubs to encourage vaccination among players and club staff, as well as promoting the Government’s public health vaccination messaging to clubs and the wider public.
"No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the league and player vaccination rates will now be publicly communicated at the end of each month, beginning in January."
Meanwhile, the EFL have confirmed that Championship, League One, League Two and Carabao Cup matches will be fulfilled — assuming the set squad criteria can be met by clubs.
An official statement said: "While the EFL acknowledge there will likely be future postponements to navigate where coronavirus cases are identified, there is optimism that disruption can be minimised following implementation of RED protocols, a daily testing regime and ongoing vaccination rollout."
EFL chief exec Trevor Birch added: "Throughout the pandemic, our two priorities have been ensuring the welfare of those involved in EFL competitions and ensuring the fixture schedule can continue where it is safe to do so.
"We will continue to work with clubs, authorities and other agencies to monitor the coronavirus case rate and be prepared to respond accordingly.
"Yet for now, the view remains that we can continue to deliver games safely where clubs have sufficient healthy personnel in place, on and off the pitch.
"With club mitigation measures, the mass adoption of booster jabs and coronavirus certification now required for larger crowds, we are sure many fans will continue to feel confident in attending matches over the Christmas period and we look forward to welcoming them."
The FA have also confirmed there will be no replays in the third and fourth rounds of this season's FA Cup.
A statement said: "We can today confirm that replays have been removed in both the third and fourth rounds of the 2021-22 Emirates FA Cup.
"This exceptional decision was approved by the FA board and has been taken in the wider interest of English football to alleviate the possibility of fixture congestion following several postponements in recent days and continued uncertainty ahead due to coronavirus.
"Ties in the third and fourth rounds of this season’s competition will be played to a finish on the day, with extra-time and penalty shootouts if required.
"Replays will return up to and including the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup from the 2022-23 season onwards."