FIFA hands Premier League option of rescheduling coronavirus-hit matches


The Premier League in England has the option of rescheduling matches postponed due to COVID-19 during the international break at the end of the month, world governing body FIFA says.

Eighteen top-flight games have been called off for COVID-related reasons since last month amid a significant rise in cases, with only three given new dates so far.

The international window which runs from January 24 to February 2 will not involve European countries.

It has been viewed by the league at the start of the season as an opportunity for any player not called up for international duty elsewhere to take a break.

However, that 10-day period could now be valuable to catch up.

FIFA would not stand in the Premier League’s way if it chose to stage matches then, provided clubs released non-European players when requested to.

A FIFA spokesperson said: “In accordance with article 1, paragraph 2 of Annexe 1 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, the release of players is mandatory for all international windows listed in the international match calendar.

“Therefore, should clubs and leagues decide to play on those dates they would not be able to feature any player who has been called up/is on international duty.”

Playing top-flight matches during the window could create issues around integrity, with some clubs more affected by call-ups outside Europe than others.

Many clubs have already been weakened after releasing players for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), which starts on Sunday and runs until Feb. 6.

The Premier League has not commented on how it intends to reschedule further matches beyond three which were allotted new dates last week.

These are Southampton versus Brentford, West Ham versus Norwich and Everton versus Leicester City.

Ninety-one per cent of Premier League matches this season have been played as scheduled.

From Thursday, the league is dropping twice-weekly PCR testing on all players and staff.

Clubs will continue to conduct daily lateral flow tests (LFTs) on training days but PCR tests will only be taken to confirm a positive lateral flow result.

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