Premier League refuses Leicester postponement request as COVID cases rise

The league said on Monday that between December 6-12, 3,805 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19 with 42 new positive cases discovered.

Manager Brendan Rodgers said Leicester had nine players out due to COVID-19 and "other medical issues", adding that the integrity of the competition is at stake in what is a "testing time of the year".   -  REUTERS

Leicester City had a request to postpone Thursday's game against Tottenham Hotspur rejected by the Premier League, as English football continues to face potential disruption from the spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.

Manager Brendan Rodgers said Leicester had nine players out due to COVID-19 and "other medical issues", adding that the integrity of the competition is at stake in what is a "testing time of the year" with teams often playing at least twice a week.

"Unfortunately for us, we weren't granted any dispensation, which was disappointing," Rodgers told reporters on Wednesday.

READ: Conte says Tottenham's last week 'terrible' with COVID-19 battle

"We've wanted to support the measures, but when we wanted support for the extreme situation we were in, it's disappointing not to get the support. We were touch and go for the Newcastle (United) game.

"We have had injuries since then, because we can't rotate the squad because of COVID. It's a really challenging time for us.

"We've got five games in 13 days, it's a challenging fixture list when you have a full squad, but with the numbers we have, it's extremely challenging."

The Premier League's rules state that if a team cannot raise 14 players then a game can be postponed although other factors, such as impact on preparation and whether or not there has been an 'uncontrollable outbreak' are taken into account.

The Premier League is likely to follow a policy of rearranging games as quickly as possible in order to avoid a fixture backlog at the end the season.

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The league said on Monday that between December 6-12, 3,805 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19 with 42 new positive cases discovered -- the highest weekly figure since data began being reported in May 2020.

Spurs have already had two games postponed due to bad weather and a coronavirus outbreak in their squad, which also resulted in their Europa Conference League match being called off -- a fixture UEFA said cannot be rescheduled.

Spurs also have issues of their own with Conte saying only 16 players, including youngsters, trained on Wednesday.

Tottenham's training ground has now re-opened to the first team, but Conte said it has been a difficult period.

"We had Thursday, Friday and Saturday without any sessions. Sunday we started again to work with not many players, because we also had problems with U23s," the Italian said.

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"The situation has not changed so much. Players are back in training and other players are continuing to be selected. Those players who are back in training they need time to find the right physical condition."

STRICTER PROTOCOLS

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp gave his backing to efforts to encourage widespread vaccination and the return of stricter COVID protocols across football.

"The whole vaccination thing is a massive question of loyalty, solidarity and togetherness. We have a chance to help not only ourselves but other people as well," said the German, ahead of his team's match on Thursday against Newcastle United.

"It is important to support the measures... The vaccination status of the team is quite good. Hopefully we can do it with the whole team," he said.

The Premier League last released data on vaccination levels of players in mid-October saying 81% of players had received at least one COVID-19 vaccination dose with 68% double vaccinated.

ALSO READ: COVID-19 vaccination is a 'question of loyalty', says Liverpool's Klopp

The league has reverted to 'emergency measures' put in place earlier in the pandemic with daily lateral flow testing and twice weekly PCR tests.

While there has been no move to limit crowd sizes, supporters will be denied entrance to stadiums if they cannot produce their COVID pass, showing fully vaccinated status, or a negative test result from within the previous 48 hours.

Spot checks will take place outside grounds with around 20% of fans expected to be asked for proof of their COVID status.

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