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Premier League meetings: Players 'reaching breaking point' over coronavirus-inflicted fixture pile-up as managers want return of five substitutes

Two meetings took place on Thursday - one with Premier League coaches, the other with captains and senior players; player welfare and fixture list among big concerns, along with protocol for postponing fixtures; Man City boss Pep Guardiola has raised the possibility of players striking

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has raised the possibility of players going on strike over their welfare due to the congested fixture schedule but does not think it will happen

Premier League players are 'reaching breaking point' with their frustration over the congested fixture list.

The concerns of managers and captains were heard by the Premier League at special meetings on Thursday.

Managers and players have fears about the number of games they have to play in quick succession during the Christmas holiday period because of the demands it is putting on squads which have been reduced in size as a result of Covid-19.

The fixture congestion is being caused by many different competitions and tournaments and it will be especially complicated next year because of the Qatar 2022 World Cup taking place in November and December.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola raised the possibility of players going on strike over welfare issues at his news conference on Thursday, although he then immediately played down the suggestion.

He said: "Should the players and the managers be all together and make a strike, or something, because just through words it's not going to be solved?

"I don't think [there will be a strike] because we want to play, we want to continue, to make the people happy going to the stadium on the 26th, 27th, 29th, 31st and 1st [January], and play games because we love to do that.

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"I'm not saying there's a reason to make a strike but [there are] more games and more games and less holidays. It's a problem."

Conte: Meeting was a waste of time

Antonio Conte said he felt as though Thursday's meeting between managers and the Premier League was a "waste of time".

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Antonio Conte believes meetings between the Premier League and managers and players were a 'waste of time' as pressure grows on the league over fixture congestion and rising coronavirus cases

Asked how he felt it went, the Tottenham head coach said: "I have to be honest, I think that it was a meeting where we tried to speak, and some coaches tried to speak and ask about solutions.

"But I think that everything was decided. And I think yesterday was a wall, and for this reason also I don't want to go into the discussion."

Pressed on whether he felt it was a waste of time, Conte said: "I think so. Because when you have a wall in front of you, you can ask and speak about what you want, but every decision was taken."

Premier League publishes guidance over fixture postponements

As far as the Premier League board are concerned, it was made clear they cannot make subjective decisions about which games are postponed, as stipulated in the league's handbook.

Top-flight clubs agreed in September last year that permission will not be granted to postpone a league match where the applicant team has 14 or more players listed on its squad available list.

Following calls from managers for transparency over why some matches have been called off and some have not, the Premier League published guidance to explain its protocols for postponing fixtures.

Clubs have been told they must provide the following information when applying for a game to be postponed:

  • Details of players and staff who have Covid, their vaccination status and - if known - the source of their infections
  • Players and staff unavailable through injury and illness
  • Players on the squad list who are still available, including 'appropriately experienced' U21 players
  • Medical information to verify status of each unavailable player, which will be reviewed by the Premier League's medical advisers

The Premier League will then consider the following factors when deciding whether to grant the request:

  • Impact of Covid infections, injuries, illness and isolation on the squad, plus the number of first-team and 'appropriately experienced' U21 players available
  • Matches will be postponed if a club does not have at least 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper available
  • Status of any Covid outbreak at the club, including the number and source infections, and the proximity to the match
  • Club's ability to safely prepare its players
  • Medical advice over whether there is an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of players and staff by playing the match
  • Advice from UK Health Securities Agency and other public bodies
  • Other exceptional circumstances

Which Premier League games have been called off so far?

Brighton vs Tottenham - Sunday December 12

Brentford vs Man Utd - Tuesday December 14

Burnley vs Watford - Wednesday December 15

Leicester vs Tottenham - Thursday December 16

Man Utd vs Brighton - Saturday December 18

Southampton vs Brentford - Saturday December 18

Watford vs Crystal Palace - Saturday December 18

West Ham vs Norwich - Saturday December 18

Aston Villa vs Burnley - Saturday December 18

Everton vs Leicester - Sunday December 19

Liverpool vs Leeds - Sunday December 26

Wolves vs Watford - Sunday December 26

Many want return of five subs

Many managers want to be able to use five substitutes again, and they want replays and two-legged cup matches scrapped.

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Manchester United caretaker boss Ralf Rangnick wants the rule of five substitutes to be reinstated in the Premier League

The rest of Europe's top leagues have continued to allow teams to make five substitutions in a match - a rule that was introduced at the beginning of the pandemic across the world.

Jurgen Klopp and Guardiola are among the managers who want to be allowed to use two extra substitutes again immediately, and Manchester United caretaker boss Ralf Rangnick is the latest manager to publicly back the change.

"The five subs were implemented when Covid started, and I think it was the right decision to do that to save energy for players, especially if they have just recovered from Covid," said Rangnick, ahead of the Monday Night Football encounter with Newcastle, live on Sky Sports Premier League.

"The same is true right now - we are in a similar situation to the one we had one-and-a-half years ago, therefore I don't see why it shouldn't be as it was one-and-a-half years ago. As far as I know, in Europe, England is the only country where they only allow three subs.

"I think it would be of great help to have five subs. I would be much more in favour of having five subs. I think we should seriously think about that again. Most of the players would be in favour of that."

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