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Brentford manager Thomas Frank. Picture: ANDREW BOYERS/REUTERS
Brentford manager Thomas Frank. Picture: ANDREW BOYERS/REUTERS

Manchester — Leicester City’s Premier League game against Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday became the fourth English top-flight fixture to be postponed in the past week as rising Covid-19 cases threaten to play havoc with the season.

The Premier League confirmed the postponement shortly after Brentford manager Thomas Frank called for all games in the coming week to be postponed to allow clubs to recover their depleted squads.

Tottenham, who reported 13 positive tests among players and staff, have had two Premier League games postponed after last week’s trip to Brighton and Hove Albion was also not played.

Brentford’s match against Manchester United on Tuesday was postponed after United’s training ground was closed due to an outbreak of Covid-19 and on Wednesday Burnley’s home match with Watford was called off shortly before kickoff after Watford had reported positive tests.

Brighton, Norwich City and Aston Villa have also reported cases as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the country.

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers on Wednesday criticised the Premier League after an initial request to have Thursday’s game against Tottenham postponed was turned down.

With December traditionally a packed fixture list, Rodgers, who had nine players unavailable, said lucrative TV deals were being prioritised over the health of players.

“I’m pretty sure that’s the case,” Rodgers told reporters.  “In terms of players, managers and coaches, we all want to play the games. Ultimately the health of a player is the priority. If players are available, you get a better product.”

The Premier League said the decision to grant a postponement came after Leicester reported more cases.

“In light of the new information, Leicester applied this morning for the fixture to be called off due to an ongoing outbreak within the squad, which has resulted in more players and staff testing positive for Covid-19 today,” it said.

“This has left the club with an insufficient number of players available to fulfil the game.”

Brighton lost 1-0 to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday after an unsuccessful attempt to have the game postponed because of Covid-19 cases.

Speaking on Thursday, Brentford boss Frank said he was dealing with 13 cases. 

“The Covid cases are going through the roof at all Premier League clubs,” Frank told a news conference. “Everyone is dealing with it and everyone has a problem at this moment. To postpone this round [of Premier League games] and the Carabao Cup [League Cup] would give everyone a week at least to clean and do everything at the training ground so everything is fine and we break the chain at every club.”

Two more Premier League games were scheduled for later on Thursday with Liverpool hosting Newcastle United and Chelsea at home to Everton.

There is then a full round of fixtures at the weekend before a hectic Christmas schedule — with many games shown live on TV.

“We want to carry on but this way we can have Boxing Day going, no problem, 100% sure of that,” said Danish coach Frank of his call for a pause. “We think that would be very sensible to do that.”

The Premier League has reintroduced “emergency measures” after announcing on Monday a record 42 new positive Covid-19 cases in the past week. Players now need to take lateral flow tests every day and two PCR tests per week.

League rules state that if a team cannot raise 14 players then a game can be postponed, though other factors, such as effect on preparation and whether or not there has been an “uncontrollable outbreak”, are taken into account.

The Premier League’s policy is to address postponements on a case-by-case basis.

The Premier League last released data on vaccination levels of players in mid-October, saying 81% of players had received at least one Covid-19 vaccination dose with 68% double-vaccinated.

Leading sports cardiologist Sanjay Sharma, who is chair of the Football Association’s cardiac committee, said the vaccine rate must be increased, warning that the league could “crash”.

“Apart from a societal responsibility, you’ve got a responsibility to the league. If people are getting infected left, right and centre, the Premier League will crash as well,” he told the Daily Mail.

Reuters

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