Howe: Covid situation puts Premier League on ‘knife edge’

News Desk
Newcastle manager Eddie Howe

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe believes the Premier League is on a ‘knife edge’ surrounding the ongoing Covid situation.

Five of the scheduled 10 top-flight matches this weekend have been called off already, but the league has so far resisted calls from the likes of Brentford boss Thomas Frank to suspend all action over the next few days to “break the chain” of infections.

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Howe, whose Newcastle side lost to Liverpool on Thursday night and are currently second-bottom of the table, are still due to host champions Manchester City on Sunday.

He said on Friday morning: “I don’t think we want half the games played and half not played.

“The league really loses something if it becomes disjointed in terms of games played. When you start losing players to Covid then the worry is the competition becomes slightly unfair and I don’t think anyone wants to see that.

“A decision needs to be made to ensure integrity is maintained in the competition. I think it is on a knife edge.

“People want to see a fair league and not disparity in games and players missing.

“I’m desperate to continue the programme myself but the welfare of the players and supporters has to come first.”

His Arsenal counterpart Mikel Arteta has called for more clarity from the league on the criteria being used for postponement.

Arsenal’s opening game of the season at Brentford in August went ahead despite the Gunners having a number of positive cases in the squad.

“We have been here on the other side of the table (at the start of the season) where we had all the arguments in the world to not play a football match and we ended up playing it.”

The rules governing Covid-19 postponements were voted on by the clubs, including Arsenal, and are set out in Appendix 17 of the Premier League’s 2021-22 handbook.

Each decision is taken on a case-by-case basis, but clubs are guided that if 14 or more players are available then permission will not be granted to postpone.

Clubs will be expected to utilise under-21 players with suitable experience in the Premier League, the EFL or overseas.

However the board do also consider medical advice from clubs on whether it is deemed to be an uncontrollable outbreak, in which case it is seen as unsafe to bring players together.

Where training grounds are closed, the board also considers whether squads are able to prepare properly for a match.

The situation in the EFL is equally dire.

By 11.30 on Friday morning 16 matches across the Championship, League One and League Two this weekend had been postponed.

The league has introduced stricter Covid-19 protocols but revealed one in four EFL players did not currently have any intention to get vaccinated at all.