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Coronavirus forces postponement of two Championship games

Bristol City v Hull City – Sky Bet Championship – Ashton Gate
(Image credit: Andrew Matthews)

Saturday’s Sky Bet Championship fixtures between Brentford and Bristol City and Luton and QPR have both been postponed due to coronavirus.

Bristol City announced on Friday that Covid-19 symptoms had become evident within their squad that day and the Bank Holiday closure of a testing facility meant it had not been possible to arrange testing of the entire squad and backroom staff ahead of the game at Brentford.

A statement on added: “Following discussions with Brentford and the English Football League the decision has been taken to postpone the game for the safety of players and staff of both clubs. A new date for the fixture will be announced in due course.”

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Shortly after that news Luton said their home clash with QPR had also been postponed following confirmed cases in the Hatters camp.

A statement on Luton’s official website said: “Positive Covid test results have recently been returned by some of the club’s senior players, football staff and immediate members of family, meaning other players and staff who have come into close contact must also isolate.

“We are awaiting further testing which unfortunately cannot be completed by official EFL procedures before tomorrow’s 3pm kick-off, so the league has agreed to postpone the fixture based on our own recommendation and the league’s medical advice.

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“The game will be rearranged to be played as soon as possible, details of which will be communicated to supporters in due course.

“All positive cases involving players and staff will observe a period of self-isolation in accordance with EFL and the Government’s protocols, and the Brache training ground will close while the rest of the squad and staff bubble undergo official EFL testing.”

The impact of the virus saw eight games across Leagues One and Two called off in Tuesday’s schedule alone.

And, in the midst of soaring Covid-19 rates and an increasing number of postponements, updated coronavirus protocols have been emailed to clubs by the EFL, which include players needing to arrive for training sessions already in their kit.


The EFL has beefed up its existing coronavirus protocols (Nigel French/PA)

The measures essentially revert to steps taken upon the initial outbreak of the virus and clubs face an increased risk of being sanctioned if they are found to be in breach of the new guidelines.

Indoor facilities including changing rooms and canteens must be closed, gymnasiums and other indoor areas only used if well-ventilated, and clubs have been asked to consider using separate or multiple vehicles to travel to fixtures.

While individual circumstances, including the financial implications of excess transportation, prevent the EFL presenting the new protocols as uniformly unbreachable, the PA news agency understands it will clamp down more keenly on affected clubs who are seen to have flouted its guidelines.

Each postponement for coronavirus issues is subject to an individual investigation by the league, with the potential for fines or points deductions if clubs are found not to have sufficient cause for calling off fixtures – or to have done so having contravened best practice.

Doncaster Rovers v Shrewsbury Town – Sky Bet League One – Keepmoat Stadium

Doncaster’s game against Fleetwood was among seven League One fixtures postponed on Tuesday alone (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Meanwhile, PA understands the Football Association has emailed clubs competing in the FA Cup third round telling them they must fulfil their ties even if they have only 14 players coronavirus-free and available.

It is understood the email sent on Friday says clubs must do all they can to keep the competition on schedule and that ties should be played providing they have a minimum of 14 players available.

Issues with this are to be reported as soon as possible and the FA’s professional game board will review the matter in terms of a possible postponement.

It is also understood the FA is paying for testing next week at non-Premier League clubs involved in the third round. The ties are scheduled to take place from January 8-11.

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