Coronavirus crisis has wreaked havoc with this weekend's English football fixtures as just over half the games in the top four divisions have been postponed; six of weekend's 10 scheduled Premier League matches and 19 English Football League fixtures have been called off
Saturday 18 December 2021 20:04, UK
Aston Villa's Premier League match with Burnley has been postponed due to positive Covid cases in Steven Gerrard's squad.
The announcement was made just before 1pm on Saturday afternoon - barely two hours before the game's scheduled kick-off.
The postponement leaves only one Premier League match remaining from the six that were scheduled to take place on Saturday, with Leeds against Arsenal in the late kick-off - live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm - the only surviving fixture.
A Premier League statement said: "After reviewing all the new information provided by Aston Villa this morning and receiving separate medical advice, the board approved the request as a result of the club not having enough players to field a team.
"This decision was based on the number of Covid-19 cases, injuries and illness.
"The league understands the decision to postpone the match at such short notice will frustrate and disappoint supporters, and apologises for the inconvenience and disruption caused.
"The remaining four Premier League matches due to be played this weekend are currently scheduled to proceed as planned."
Villa acknowledged and apologised for the late postponement, which came a little over two hours before the match was due to kick off, but insisted they acted as quickly as they could.
A club statement said: "The results of PCR tests, which were taken yesterday prior to training as well as lateral flow tests, were received this morning and confirmed further depletion of our playing squad which was already impacted upon for our trip to Norwich in midweek.
"All individuals who tested positive are now isolating in line with Premier League and government guidance and protocols.
"The club is extremely sorry for the inconvenience caused to Burnley, both our own supporters and the Burnley fans due to attend the fixture but have acted as swiftly as possible this morning to minimise disruption."
Brighton vs Tottenham - Sunday December 12, Premier League
Brentford vs Man Utd - Tuesday December 14, Premier League
Burnley vs Watford - Wednesday December 15, Premier League
Leicester vs Tottenham - Thursday December 16, Premier League
Man Utd vs Brighton - Saturday December 18, Premier League
Southampton vs Brentford - Saturday December 18, Premier League
Watford vs Crystal Palace - Saturday December 18, Premier League
West Ham vs Norwich - Saturday December 18, Premier League
Aston Villa vs Burnley - Saturday December 18, Premier League
Everton vs Leicester - Sunday December 19, Premier League
A string of fixtures across other competitions have also been postponed.
Tottenham vs Rennes - Thursday December 9, Europa Conference League
Sheffield Utd vs QPR - Monday December 13, Championship
Man City Women vs Leicester City Women - Wednesday December 15, League Cup
Cardiff vs Derby - Saturday December 18, Championship
QPR vs Swansea - Saturday December 18, Championship
Reading vs Luton - Saturday December 18, Championship
Millwall vs Preston - Saturday December 18, Championship
AFC Wimbledon vs Portsmouth - Saturday December 18, League One
Gillingham vs Crewe - Saturday December 18, League One
Lincoln City vs Doncaster Rovers - Saturday December 18, League One
Sheffield Wednesday vs Accrington - Saturday December 18, League One
Barrow vs Northampton - Saturday December 18, League Two
Carlisle vs Bradford - Saturday December 18, League Two
Colchester vs Hartlepool - Saturday December 18, League Two
Crawley vs Oldham - Saturday December 18, League Two
Forest Green vs Mansfield Town - Saturday December 18, League Two
Scunthorpe vs Bristol Rovers - Saturday December 18, League Two
Chelsea Women vs West Ham Women - Sunday December 19, Women's Super League
Man City Women vs Reading Women - Sunday December 19, Women's Super League
Forest Green vs Colchester - Tuesday December 21 - League Two
The 2021/22 Premier League handbook includes Covid protocols, and states the Premier League's board will "only permit the rearrangement or postponement of a league match in exceptional circumstances".
The board make calls on a case-by-case basis, and by way of guidance the Premier League says permission for a postponement will not be granted if a club have 14 or more players from their squad list available.
In a statement on Thursday, the Premier League added they would '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 may come into contact with.'
The week of December 6 to December 12 saw the highest number of positive tests in the Premier League, with 42 compared with 12 the previous week (November 29 to December 5).
It was also the highest weekly figure recorded since the release of testing results began in May last year.
December 6 to December 12 did see the highest number of tests taken this season, with 3,805.
August 2 to August 8 - 3,118 tested; 9 positive
August 9 to August 15 - 3,231 tests; 11 positive
August 16 to August 22 - 3,060 tests; 16 positive
August 23 to August 29 - 3,020 tests; six positive
August 30 to September 5 - 1,952 tests; two positive
September 6 to September 12 - 3,039 tests; three positive
September 13 to September 19 - 3,154 tests; two positive
September 20 to September 26 - 3,010 tests; one positive
September 27 to October 3 - 2,927 tests; four positive
October 4 to October 10 - 1,696 tests; zero positive
October 11 to October 17 - 3,044 tests; six positive
October 18 to October 24 - 3,209 tests; four positive
October 25 to October 31 - 3,006 tests; four positive
November 1 to November 7 - 2,953 tests; three positive
November 8 to November 14 - 1,647 tests; four positive
November 15 to November 21 - 3,188 tests; six positive
November 22 to November 28 - 3,379 tests; seven positive
November 29 to December 5 - 3,154 tests; 12 positive
December 6 to December 12 - 3,805 tests; 42 positive
A record-high 42 cases puts the Premier League in a precarious position heading into a busy period of fixtures.
Unsurprisingly, the Premier League have written to clubs telling them "emergency measures" have been reinstated, this includes:
According to the PA news agency, Premier League players and staff must also now take a lateral flow test every time they want to enter their club's training ground as the competition steps up its efforts to combat the threat posed by the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
It is understood individuals will be required to take a lateral flow test outside the facility, while twice-weekly PCR testing is also being introduced.
The decision on increased testing was taken at a clubs' shareholders' meeting on Tuesday and will sit alongside existing emergency measures that were reintroduced last week.
Back in October, the Premier League revealed 69 per cent of players had been fully vaccinated, with 81 per cent receiving their first dose, while a month prior Sky Sports News reported the concern over the league's slow vaccine drive.
Those concerns remain in light of the recent increase, and there will also be a push for double-jabbed players to receive their booster in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, in order to attend a Premier League game from December 15, supporters must now either show proof of double vaccination via the NHS Covid app, or proof of a negative lateral flow test taken inside the previous 48 hours.
This is a requirement to attend any sporting event in England with crowds of more than 10,000 people, a measure Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced as part of the government's 'plan B' to combat the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
Tottenham, whose game at Burnley at the end of November was also postponed due to the weather, now have three games to shoehorn into their schedule. Their postponed Europa Conference League game against Rennes will not be rescheduled.
Tottenham's next scheduled game is at home to Liverpool on December 19, ahead of a home Carabao Cup quarter-final against West Ham three days later.
Chelsea, currently not directly impacted by any Covid suspensions, have their own fixture pile-up to contend with due to their participation in the Club World Cup.
Chelsea could go nearly a month without playing a Premier League fixture due to the tournament in the UAE between February 3-12. Chelsea's trip to Brighton on February 8 and the home clash with Arsenal on February 12 are set to be re-arranged, with the fixtures having to be played later in the season.
Six Premier League games had to be postponed last season due to Covid. There were rumours of a 'circuit break' suspension of the league after outbreaks in December and January, but postponements were restricted to a month-long period.
Aston Villa vs Newcastle - December 4
Everton vs Man City - December 28
Tottenham vs Fulham - December 30
Burnley vs Fulham - January 3
Aston Villa vs Tottenham - January 13
Aston Villa vs Everton - January 17