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FA Cup Covid-19 rules as uncertainty surrounds Villa vs Liverpool tie and more

Coronavirus has already put paid to one of the FA Cup third round ties this weekend, but several others seem set to go ahead with clubs selecting shadow squads due to players being forced into self-isolation.

The clash between Southampton and Shrewsbury at St Mary’s has already been called off as the Shrews reported a “quite astronomical” number of positive cases in their squad earlier this week.

Chief executive Brian Caldwell said that the new variant of the virus had “wiped through” the club and meant that it would be unsafe for them to travel to Southampton and fulfil the fixture.

With some of the players who haven’t tested positive deemed to be close contacts of the positive cases, it has meant that the League One Shrews are unable to cobble together a team to take on Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men.

Shrewsbury Town may have to forfeit their game with Southampton

The FA have told clubs that, in practice, they must fulfil their tie if they have a minimum of 14 players fit and available, i.e. not suffering from the virus and not self-isolating due to be being a close contact.

No club will be forced to forfeit their tie immediately, with the FA aware of the increasingly fraught individual circumstances of different clubs.

However the FA do want any postponed ties to take place before the fourth round starts on January 23. This presents a problem for Shrewsbury as Southampton face Leeds in the Premier League on January 20.

The FA’s Professional Game Board will meet next week to discuss the postponed fixtures, but it seems likely that Shrewsbury may have to forfeit the tie as they simply don’t have enough players to play in it.

Derby County have already confirmed that interim manager Wayne Rooney and his entire first-team squad won’t make the trip to Chorley for Saturday lunchtime’s third round tie, but that match is still on.

Wayne Rooney won't be at Chorley vs Derby
Wayne Rooney won’t be at Chorley vs Derby

A team made up of Derby’s under-23s and under-18s players will take on the National League North side, with under-23s coach Pat Lyons and Gary Bowyer taking charge.

An additional problem for Derby is that six of their more promising under-23s players have been training as part of the first-team ‘bubble’ in recent weeks, meaning they may still not have enough players for the fixture.

Aston Villa could also be forced to field a young side for Friday night’s all Premier League tie at home to Liverpool after they confirmed a “significant” outbreak at the club on Thursday.

With Villa facing a Premier League match against Tottenham next midweek and then both clubs playing midweek matches the week after, it seems unlikely that the game could be rescheduled if it has to be postponed.

That raises the possibility of Villa forfeiting the match should they not be able to raise a side, although their vast youth resources means they should be able to.

Liverpool fielded a young team at Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup last season
Liverpool fielded a young team at Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup last season

Ironically, Liverpool fielded their under-23 side against Villa in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals last season as the first-team were away at the Club World Cup, and it seems as though the roles could be reversed as a young Villa side takes to the pitch this time around.

Sheffield Wednesday are another club to confirm ‘significant’ Covid cases among the first-team squad, including caretaker boss Neil Thompson, ahead of their tie at Exeter.

Middlesbrough, who faced Wednesday in the Championship last week, are also struggling with what the club call ‘a number of positive tests’ ahead of their tie at Brentford.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche has also confirmed that the Clarets have a small number of cases ahead of their third round clash with the MK Dons.

Sean Dyche says there are "a couple" of positive cases at Burnley
Sean Dyche says there are “a couple” of positive cases at Burnley

“We have got a couple of cases that will affect us,” he said.

“We have some at the moment and we are having to be wise and re-pod the players.

“The worry for us across the sport is the knock-on effect. We have a couple of cases, which could affect us over the next few days.

“It’s a tough challenge for all, so we’re having to be wise and push the rules as hard as we can, to stop any future cases.”

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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta speaks out on football’s rising coronavirus cases

Mikel Arteta was the manager whose positive test started football’s Covid lockdown.

Now the Arsenal boss admits he is “worried” about the raft of new infections and rising cases ahead of FA Cup third round weekend.

Gunners boss Arteta lifted the FA Cup in August after one of the most difficult seasons in English football history and the holders face Newcastle at the Emirates on Saturday.

But there are clear worries and concerns for every club, manager and players up and down the country with football at the most worrying point since it locked down last March.

Football Association bosses are determined to play on with the Cup this weekend but Arteta admits that, while players are under strict protocols, the fears are growing.

Arteta said: “It is worrying because we see every day what is happening in the country and the level of infections. That is increasing. You can sense not the panic but the worry around everybody.

Mikel Arteta during a training session at London Colney

“We are suffering for all the people that are involved in different and difficult circumstances. We cannot isolate from that.

“What we try to do is try to maintain the infections as low as possible, follow all the protocols and the doctors are doing an incredible job to try to maintain a safe environment for us.

“We have to try to keep insisting, not just to our players but also to all the staff and everybody involved around the place, to be very conscious of how difficult the situation that we are in is and how lucky we are to still do what we do.

“They (players and staff) are worried but they know that in this environment they are really well protected. Obviously this virus is touching everybody now personally. You always have a relative, a parent, a friend that has been hit with the virus in many different ways.

“We are now very educated about it and have a history related to it. Then it becomes more worrying of course.”

Arteta became a focal point last year when the Premier League was locked down for months but Arsenal recovered to go on to win the FA Cup, a trophy he also won as a player under Arsene Wenger.

That has given him extra motivation to maintain this season’s cup run. “It was a beautiful day. It was the last game of the season, everyone took off after that and it was a really difficult end of the year with all the COVID situations that we had,” said Arteta.

“We’re going to go after every competition. We are the holders, we have to defend that title. We know what it means to the football club and the history that is related to the FA Cup. It’s a great competition to play in for us.”

Meanwhile, Arsenal have taken out a £120m loan from the Bank of England to help with cash flow during the Covid pandemic.

The club, which asked players to take a pay cut and was forced into staff cuts during lockdown, is stressing its to ease finances and is repayable by May 2021.

A club statement read: “The Covid Corporate Financing Facility is designed to provide short-term finance at commercial rates during the pandemic to companies that have strong investment ratings and which make significant contributions to the British economy.”

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Full transcript of Trippier’s WhatsApp chat with friend that led to 10-week ban

Kieran Trippier told his friend to “lump on” a betting market surrounding his transfer from Tottenham to Atletico Madrid in 2019.

The England international was handed a 10-week ban and £70,000 fine in December for breaches of betting rules, although the ban has been suspended pending the appeal.

In the written reasons for the FA’s sanctions, a number of messages between Trippier and close friend Oliver Hawley have been publicised.

The leaked conversation begins as Trippier confirms to Hawley that he is likely to move to Atleti and when asked by his friend if he should bet, he advises him to do so.

Kieran Trippier was announced as an Atletico Madrid player on July 17

The 29-year-old openly admitted that he discussed his future with friends in a group chat, involving a number of friends.

Trippier had said that the messages were sent with “banter” in mind, something that was quickly rejected by the commission.

Hawley was found to have placed 10 separate bets on Trippier’s next move, with his future at Spurs up in the air.

The £25million transfer was announced on July 17, days after the leaked conversation between Trippier and Hawley.

According to the FA documents, Hawley placed his first bet on an Atleti transfer on July 11, before placing subsequent bets on the same day.

The following is a conversation between Kieran Trippier (KT) and Oliver Hawley (OH) on July 15.

Trippier told friends he was set to join the Spanish giants

OH: “How’s it going mate any developments today?”

KT: “Yeah all good mate.”

OH: “It’s all agreed just waiting for them to come to an agreement with the fee.”

KT: “Should be done tomorrow or defo Monday.”

OH: “That’s class mate. Is Levy going to be hard work or not do you reckon?”

KT: “They need to sell. So it should go through straight away.”

OH: “They need to sell. So it should go through straight away. At least this should get you out of going to China.”

Trippier’s ban has been suspended pending appeal

KT: “Yeah be quality mate, more money what I’m on now. Don’t want to be going there [China].”

OH: “More money than on your now is class cos this is a real big pay day opportunity. And mate Spain is better to live in than Italy.”

KT: “Yeah be class mate.”

Shortly after the conversation, Hawley placed two more bets, with the price at 5/6.

In a separate conversation, Trippier spoke with Matthew Brady [MB], where he explicitly told his friend to ‘lump on’.

MB: Shall I lump on you going there? [Laughing emoji].

KT: [Laughing emoji}, can do mate.”

MB: “100% Tripps?”

Trippier messaged the group chat saying his transfer to Atletico Madrid was a “done deal”

KT: Yeah mate. Don’t blame me if something goes wrong [Laughing emoji]. It shouldn’t be, but just letting you know.

MB: Of course not, don’t be daft mate. I’m only messing.

KT: “Lump on if you want mate.”

MB: “I’m nervous now.”

Following this chat, Trippier informed his friends it was “nearly a done deal”, with further bets placed, before sending an update at 21.54 simply stating “done deal”, signalling an opportunity for further wages to be placed.

On July 16, he messaged to say “flying out today and do my medical tomorrow”, before Hawley placed another two bets with a combined value of £320.

According to the report witness statements from Harry Kane, Gareth Southgate and Sean Dyche were taken into his account, as well as his previously good disciplinary record and willingness to participate in the investigation.

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Premier League and EFL given green light to continue despite new lockdown

Premier League football has been given the green light to carry on despite the Government introducing tougher new coronavirus rules.

The Football Association and EFL have also received assurances about elite sport ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup that they will also be exempt.

It comes as a huge relief for English football in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson bringing in a new raft of crackdowns.

Premier League football restarted during the original lockdown last June and the Government remain happy that the protocols mean it is safe for players.

Football is also seen as important for the national mood amid the pandemic and it can carry on in the Premier League, EFL and FA Cup.


But grassroots football will be stopped while even club’s academies at youth level and under-18s will also not be allowed to play on during the stronger rules.

Premier League chiefs are desperate to play on for the sake of finances as football has struggled during the pandemic with games behind-closed-doors while TV deals would also be at risk if there was another break.

However, there is frustration among Premier League bosses and even at Government level about the “Covidiots” who have broken rules over Christmas and New Year.

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Three games – Fulham ’s games at Tottenham and Burnley plus Manchester City ’s trip to Everton – have been postponed in the past week while the EFL has been hit by a raft of games being called off amid fears about the FA Cup third round this weekend.

Tottenham trio Erik Lamela, Giovani Lo Celso and Sergio Reguilon were pictured at a family get together with West Ham ’s Manuel Lanzini while City, Fulham and Crystal Palace have all seen players flout strict lockdown rules.

The Premier League have twice written to clubs over the festive period warning they must remind players over their responsibility to behave well and fall into line with protocols.

Now there are stricter national lockdowns there can be no excuse and the Government are relying on football to act responsibly after being given special dispensation to carry on.

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Trippier’s ban for breaking gambling rules put on hold amid Atletico appeal

Kieran Trippier’s 10-week ban for breaking FA rules on gambling has been put on hold.

World governing body FIFA have contacted Atletico Madrid to tell them Trippier is free to play until the Spanish club’s appeal against the suspension is heard.

Trippier got the ban and a £70,000 fine from the Football Association last month after the England full back was found guilty of providing information on his £20m move from Tottenham to Atletico in July 2019 in a group WhatsApp chat with friends.

Atletico right back Trippier has now been cleared to play while the appeal is ongoing but he missed their game on Sunday with Alaves because he has not trained this week as he did not expect to play.

Trippier on England duty in November

FIFA issued a statement which read: “Following the appeal and, specifically, the request for provisional measures lodged by the club Atletico Madrid, the FIFA Appeal Committee has approved to stay the extension of the suspension against Kieran Trippier until the procedure is over before the FIFA Appeal Committee.”

Trippier has always pleaded his innocence, insisted he made no profit and anything said was purely conversation with friends and family. Atletico have appealed to FIFA and are also prepared to take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

But the appeal has been driven by Atletico with boss Diego Simeone calling the punishment “completely unjust” as it would rule Trippier out of 14 games, including their last 16 tie with Chelsea next month.

Atletico chief executive Miguel Ángel Gil Marín has launched a passionate defence of Trippier and also remarkable attack on the FA’s process. He said: “Personally, I think it’s a suspension that is disproportionate for the player and totally unjust for Atlético.

“How can it be possible that the party that is most negatively effected by this is Atlético, which hasn’t played any part in the process? If the player has committed an infraction that does not have any effect on the competition, how can it be Atlético is the one punished by this?

“The fact that the FA has punished the player by preventing him from playing against Chelsea, and that the ban just happens to finish just as the England national team is scheduled to play a competitive game, makes you think all sorts of things about the integrity of the competition and the ethics of a football association with a long history.”

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Ander Herrera launches X-rated rant following Edinson Cavani’s FA ban

Ander Herrera has blasted the Football Association’s decision to hand Manchester United striker Edinson Cavani a three-game ban.

Cavani was handed the sanction following a post he made on his personal Instagram account back in Novemeber.

The Uruguayan posted on November 29, after guiding his new team to a come from behind victory against Southampton.

The forward deleted the post soon after and issued an apology, but he was charged with using insulting and/or improper words, and pleaded guilty to the FA charge.

Edinson Cavani will miss the next three Man Utd matches after his ban was confirmed

On Thursday, it was confirmed he would be issued with a three-game ban, effective immediately.

That means the former PSG star will miss the New Year’s Day clash with Aston villa, as well as the Carabao Cup semi final vs Manchester City and the FA Cup third-round tie against Watford.

Cavani issued a lengthy statement following the decision, apologising for his actions, while defending something he believes was lost in translation.

“Hello everyone, I do not want to extend much in this uncomfortable moment for me,” he wrote.

Herrera left United in 2019, linking up with Cavani at PSG

“I want to share with you that I accept the disciplinary sanction knowing that I am foreign to English language customs, but I do not share the point of view.

“I apologise if I offended someone with an expression of affection towards a friend, nothing further was my intention.

“Those who know me know that my effort is to always seek the simplest joy and friendship!

“I appreciate the countless expressions of support and affection.

Ander Herrera messaged the Man Utd striker after the FA announced their decision

“My heart is at peace because I know that I always expressed myself with affection according to my culture and way of life. I send you a sincere hug.”

And in response, ex-United star Herrera, who played with the forward in France, issued a staunch defence of his former teammate.

Posting on the social media site, Herrera said: “If they ban you for that. The world is going to s***. Big hugs and stay strong Edi.”

Meanwhile, current United defender Marcos Rojo said to Cavani: “Those who know you know the kind of person you are!!!”

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How Brexit impacts transfers and youth policy as UK leaves EU single market

Cesc Fabregas and Jadon Sancho would have been forbidden to make the international transfers which made their careers under new post-Brexit transfer rules.

The UK left the European Union single market at 11pm on Thursday, just before the January transfer window opens on January 2.

Brexit will see an end for the freedom of movement of labour for EU citizens here – and the end to signing Under 18s.

Spaniard Fabregas joined Arsenal at the age of 16 after coming through the Barcelona academy and made over 200 appearances for the club.

Young British talent, like Jadon Sancho and Jude Bellingham of Borussia Dortmund, will now not be able to play in Europe until they are 18.

Jadon Sancho joined Dortmund from Manchester City

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TRANSFER MARKET

A new points system aims to create a footballing level-playing field with EU citizens now having only the same right as non-EU footballers to play in the British leagues.

All overseas signings will now need governing body endorsement (GBE) to be eligible to play in the UK. The Home Office-approved system has been agreed by the FA, the Premier League and the EFL and will be reviewed at the end of the January window.

Players will need to score 15 points to qualify for GBE.

The score takes into account factors such as international caps, the FIFA rankings of the player’s country, club appearances and the strength of the domestic league.

A panel will adjudicate on players 10-14 points.
The new rules won’t stop Premier League clubs signing top international players.

Cesc Fabregas joined Arsenal as a youngster from Barcelona

YOUTH POLICY COMING IN

Clubs could previously sign EU citizens – such as Fabregas, Paul Pogba and Hector Bellerin – at the age of 16. Now the limit is 18.

Even European players aged 18 and 19 will have to meet additional criteria such as appearances in youth competitions at club and international level.

Manchester United’s U18 squad includes nine players born outside the UK and the head of
academy warned Premier League clubs could suffer under the rules.

Nick Cox told the BBC: “It probably puts us at a disadvantage to other European clubs.”

AND GOING OUT

Sancho and Bellingham both decided to join Borussia Dortmund aged 17 but the new rules prevent any Under 18s making cross-border moves.

And individual EU countries have different rules for non-EU players.

Spain limits the number to three in any matchday squad. And it will be more difficult for managers and coaches to work abroad.

Man United initially signed Paul Pogba under the age of 18. This can no longer happen

ARE THERE LIMITS?

The Premier League has agreed with FA to limit clubs to signing three foreign U21 players in any transfer window.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR HOMEGROWN PLAYERS?

Premier League clubs will still need eight homegrown players in a 25-man squad which has led to more British players appearing in the top flight.

GETTING AROUND THE RULES

Premier League clubs can’t sign Under 18s but feeder clubs – or partner clubs – could do so on their behalf.

Manchester United had a close relationship with Royal Antwerp while Chelsea loan out players, such as Mason Mount, to Vitesse Arnhem.

The City Football Group – which is owned by Manchester City’s owners – have stakes in Girona, Lommel and Troyes.

Jude Bellingham joined Dortmund from Birmingham

GET AN IRISH PASSPORT

British-born players used to check their ancestry to see if they could play for the Republic of Ireland. Now a parent born in Ireland or Northern Ireland would allow players to obtain an EU passport and the freedom to still play in the 27 countries.

TRAVEL FOR FANS

Once Covid restrictions are over – and before a visa-waiver scheme is introduced in 2022 – UK nationals will be able to visit the EU for up to 90 days in in any 180-day period without a visa.

Trips to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania will not count towards the 90-day allowance for other EU countries.

DATES

The transfer window in England for the Premier League and Sky Bet EFL will open on January 2 and close on February 1, 2021.

The Bundesliga and Ligue 1 windows will also open on January 2 while La Liga and Serie A will begin their trading on January 4.

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Edinson Cavani banned for three games by FA for offensive Instagram post

Manchester United striker Edinson Cavani has been banned for three matches and has received a fine of £100,000 by the FA.

The punishment relates to a social media post sent by Cavani containing a Spanish phrase considered offensive in some contexts.

And the Uruguayan forward will also be required to undergo face-to-face education after admitting a charge for a breach of FA Rule E3.

A statement from United supported their player, and read: “Edinson wasn’t aware that his words could have been misconstrued and he sincerely apologised for the post and to anyone who was offended.

“Despite his honest belief that he was simply sending an affectionate thank you in response to a congratulatory message from a close friend, he chose not to contest the charge out of respect for, and solidarity with, The FA and the fight against racism in football.

Edinson Cavani has been banned for three games

“While it is clear context + intent key factors, note that the independent Regulatory Commission required to impose a min 3 game suspension.

“The Club trusts Commission will make it clear in written reasons that Edinson Cavani not a racist, nor any racist intent in relation to post.”

Cavani sent a message after scoring for United in their 3-2 win over Southampton in November.

He subsequently deleted the post and apologised when it was pointed out that his words could have caused offence.

Cavani posted after scoring against Southampton

As a result of the suspension Cavani will miss United’s Premier League game against Aston Villa on Friday, as well as the upcoming Carabao Cup semi-final against Manchester City and FA Cup third Round tie against Watford.

Cavani has impressed since joining the Red Devils on a free transfer in the summer, scoring three goals and creating two assists in his nine Premier League appearances so far.

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Premier League clubs discuss two-week break amid surge in Covid-19 cases

Premier League clubs have reportedly held talks over a two-week ‘cooling off’ break in January amid mounting fears over surging coronavirus cases.

Numerous positive Covid-19 cases at Manchester City led to the postponement of their clash with Everton on Monday.

This prompted informal discussions between top-flight chairmen and there is shared concern that more matches will be called off

Sheffield United also registered a number of fresh cases but confirmed Tuesday evening’s match with Burnley will go ahead.

Elsewhere, Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl will not be on the sideline for the visit of West Ham after a member of his household bubble returned a positive test.

Top-flight chairmen are growing increasingly concerned by surging cases

This comes after Aston Villa versus Newcastle was postponed at the start of December following an outbreak at the latter.

The Daily Telegraph claims some chairmen are resigned to a mid-season break being necessary, while the government review of coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday will shape discussions going forward.

A key cause for concern for Premier League sides are the upcoming FA Cup third-round fixtures, which are scheduled to take place in early January.

Manchester City’s trip to Everton was called off on Monday

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The lower leagues have already seen multiple postponed matches, while all 64 clubs involved will have their players tested before the cup ties.

Elsewhere, the latest round of Premier League testing found 18 people with the virus – the highest figure in a single round of testing since it began in August.

A club doctor has also advised against matches continuing given the current ‘R’ rate and nine EFL matches were recently called off.

In the meantime, Manchester City are awaiting the results of a fresh round of testing to find out whether they can face Chelsea on Sunday and Manchester United in the Carabao Cup next Wednesday.

Organisers are facing an uphill battle to reschedule fixtures and the backlog would worsen if there was a two-week break in January.

The upcoming Euros are also due to start on 11 June, meaning scope to extend club competitions into the summer is very limited.

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Coronavirus concerns grow over big boys visiting minnows in FA Cup third round

It seems to be a case of carry on with the new normal for professional football.

But the increasingly draconian Covid measures and fearful Government language has set the game’s alarm bells ringing.

And while the party lines from the Premier League, the English Football League and the Football Association all stress their intention to continue in the way they have been doing since Project Restart, there is a growing fear amongst clubs that the season could be wrecked by the latest coronavirus development.

So far, the regulations allowing elite competition to go ahead remain in place but with the likes of health minister Matt Hancock suggesting the mutant strain of Covid is now ‘out of control’, there is scepticism within ALL sports about the prospect of remaining unaffected.

The Premier League has done a remarkable job in finishing last season and starting this one with few alarms.

The bio-secure regimes implemented by football’s top tier – both at stadiums and training grounds – are the strictest imaginable.

Tottenham will have to visit Marine FC’s Rossett Park in the FA Cup

Only one game, Newcastle ’s match against Aston Villa, has been called off for coronavirus reasons.

But there have been an number of issues further down the pyramid, the latest seeing Millwall’s next two Championship fixtures cancelled because of an outbreak of Covid in the squad.

On January 9, Millwall are scheduled to travel to Boreham Wood for a third round FA Cup tie.

While the Football Association says its competition is an elite event and will go ahead as scheduled, the FA Cup will now come under scrutiny in the light of the latest, dramatic Covid upsurge.

Inevitably, as you go down the professional ladder, facilities are not as extensive as at the very top.

Matt Hancock has discussed the danger of the latest Covid strain

Eight Premier League clubs visit lower league opposition with, for example, Spurs travelling to Marine’s tiny Rossett Park stadium and Brighton going to the Covid hotspot of Newport, where the latest figures showed there to be 912 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people.

Premier League clubs are being diplomatic about the situation but will privately ask for clarification over what Covid protocols are in place at host grounds.

Premier League players are tested twice a week and exist in their bio-secure bubbles.

That level of detail is impossible to implement in the lower tiers.

With travel into and out of tier 4 areas banned, elite sportsmen and women remain exceptions.

But that Government position could change as more regions face the prospect of falling under the severest restrictions in the coming weeks, if not days.

Premier League officials says they are continually monitoring their Covid protocols and making sure they are enforced rigorously.

They also point out that a game was staged at Leicester when the city was in local lockdown.

Even if the United Kingdom goes back into national lockdown, the Premier League would hope to carry on.

But with travel from here to Europe disappearing, there are also concerns about the Champions League and Europa League.

In the end, it will be scientists and politicians who decide the future of a season already under pressure from an intense club fixture schedule and the Euros in June.

And while the game’s authorities remain outwardly optimistic, the chances of football remaining unaffected by the latest Covid twist seem slim.