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Premier League clarify mostly still arbitrary COVID postponement rules

Making it up as we go along

General View of Amex Stadium after Brighton & Hove Albion v Arsenal Premier League game cancelled due to Covid-19 Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

After the farcical postponement of the North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, wherein Arsenal had a grand total of one (1) confirmed COVID case — but also several injuries, suspensions, unavailabilities (due to AFCON) and recently loaned out players — it became clear that the Premier League needed more defined rules for postponing matches than just thoughts and feelings.

To that effect, the league confirmed today that teams will need at least four (4) COVID cases among the players “unavailable” for a match, to fulfill the 13+1 requirement for number of players needed to play.

“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.”

-Premier League statement

Presumably, this case would’ve forced Arsenal to play, since their squad issues had little to do with COVID-19 (i.e. the new consideration) and everything to do with other factors that would’ve been factors even before the pandemic (i.e. injuries, international duty, or sending players out on loan).

What it doesn’t fix are situation like Chelsea’s against Wolves, when we had 7-8 positive cases but as far as the league were concerned, our squad was still big enough (correct) and fit enough (incorrect) to play. Nor would it fix situations like Leeds United’s, when they practically played their youth team.

But hey, progress.