Aston Villa v Newcastle postponement sets precedent – Not only number of positive virus cases
Tuesday afternoon saw the Aston Villa v Newcastle match postponed.
Each recent round of testing had produced more and more positive results, with so far at least six Newcastle United players and two members of club staff having tested positive in total according to Steve Bruce and the additional media exclusives.
As the number of positive cases increased, so the media reports escalated in terms of claiming the Aston Villa v Newcastle match wouldn’t go ahead on Friday.
A lot of fans believing this was sensationalising the situation and it was most unlikely to be the case, as the Premier League are desperate for games to go ahead as scheduled, so there is absolutely no risk that the 2020/21 Premier League season won’t be completed.
The Premier League having sent guidance ahead of the season to clubs, stating that the general rule would be that so long as clubs could field at least 14 players in their matchday squad despite others testing positive, matches would still go ahead.
However, on this occasion the journalists were proved correct, as on late Tuesday afternoon Newcastle United released an official statement (see below) confirming that Aston Villa v Newcastle had indeed been called off until a later date.
The Premier League also put out their own official statement which included this:
‘Newcastle lodged a request with the Premier League to rearrange the game following a significant increase in COVID-19 cases at the club, which resulted in Public Health England North East (PHE) advising that their training facilities remain closed.
The Premier League Board agreed, as a consequence, that the club are unable to train and adequately and safely prepare for their match on Friday.’
What is especially interesting about the Premier League statement, is that it is clear that this match has now set a precedent that they (the Premier League) most definitely wouldn’t have wanted to happen.
Whilst obviously the number of positive cases is also important, it isn’t the all or nothing in a decision being made. Instead, the explanation given by the Premier League makes clear that a club not being able to properly prepare for a match due to the impact of the virus, regarding shutting down training facilities / not been able to train as normal, can lead to a postponement, rather than simply a number of positive cases as the only tipping point.
Naturally, the biggest thing is the health and safety of all those affected and hopefully stopping the spread to others.
However, beyond that, the Premier League will be looking on anxiously and hoping this Newcastle United situation and eventual postponement proves to be a one-off amongst the 20 clubs. Especially so when some media are already claiming that the Newcastle v West Brom match on Saturday 12 December could also be under threat, depending on how the situation develops in the days ahead.
‘Newcastle United Official Statement – 1 December 2020:’
‘Newcastle United’s Premier League fixture at Aston Villa on Friday, 4th December has been postponed following a significant increase in Covid-19 cases at the Magpies’ Training Centre.
Several Newcastle United players and staff members are now self-isolating at home after returning positive test results in recent days and the club’s Training Centre site has been temporarily closed in order to contain the spread of the virus.
With the Magpies’ first team currently unable to prepare for the match as a group, Newcastle United lodged a request with the Premier League to postpone the fixture at Villa Park, which has been approved by the Premier League Board.
The match, which was set to kick off at 8pm (GMT) on Friday evening, will now be rescheduled and a new date and time will be confirmed in due course. Newcastle United would like to thank Aston Villa Football Club for its understanding.
Newcastle United was one of the first clubs in the country to close its training ground prior to the first national lockdown in March and the club introduced comprehensive Covid-19 protocols in line with Premier League and government guidance to protect its players and staff ahead of Project Restart.
While the club has continued to ensure strict adherence to these protocols, and despite previously experiencing only a very small number of isolated Covid-19 cases, positive test results have risen sharply in recent days.
Accordingly, the club is now is working with Public Health England North East (PHE), local health authorities and the Premier League in line with Covid-19 protocols to identify the source of the outbreak and to ensure the risk of further transmission continues to be minimised.
All players and training ground staff will be re-tested this week and a meeting between the club, Premier League and PHE will take place to assess the test results.
The club will not be naming individuals who have contracted Covid-19 and asks that their privacy is respected.
For the latest coronavirus guidance, please visit gov.uk/coronavirus.’
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