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EFL to launch twice-weekly coronavirus testing funded by PFA

Derby County v Reading – Sky Bet Championship – Pride Park
(Image credit: Nigel French)

The EFL will test players from all 72 clubs for coronavirus twice a week from Monday after the Professional Footballers’ Association agreed to fund the programme.

The competition has been beset by a raft of postponements related to Covid-19 in recent months which have led to calls for it to introduce a regular testing regime or risk the league being suspended.

The league had committed to testing at ‘strategic’ points of the season – which include this week – and clubs could test more regularly at their own discretion.

But this move brings uniformity and a greater degree of certainty at a time when a number of clubs have called for a “circuit breaker” with a new, highly transmissible strain of coronavirus in circulation.

A joint EFL and PFA statement said: “Medical advice continues to support that following these protocols is the most successful route to mitigating against the spread of infection but given the emergence of a new strain of the Covid virus, it is acknowledged that additional testing where it is not currently happening may help with the early identification and isolation of asymptomatic individuals.

“The tests have initially been procured from the private sector and will be fully funded by the PFA following discussions that have taken place with the EFL across the past 72-hour period.”

New EFL chief executive Trevor Birch said: “We have repeatedly maintained that adhering to the stringent protocols implemented during the restart last summer and then across all clubs since the beginning of the season was going to be our best chance of beating the virus and to keep playing matches.

“Only last week we took the decision to enhance these to further minimise risk, though with the new strain of the virus taking hold across parts of the country, it is now clear from our discussions with our medical advisors and public health officials that additional testing, operated in conjunction with strict protocols, may prove beneficial in the immediate short-term.

The PFA, led by its chief executive Gordon Taylor, has agreed to fund EFL testing

The PFA, led by its chief executive Gordon Taylor, has agreed to fund EFL testing (Steven Paston/PA)

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the PFA for their support in helping us to finalise a position on testing across all three divisions on a twice-weekly basis. 

“We will continue to review the situation and make any adjustments or changes as circumstances dictate with the health and well-being of our players and club staff the overwhelming priority.”

The PFA had already been funding coronavirus ‘audits’, whereby officials from the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) advised clubs on best practice at stadiums and training grounds.

Lateral flow devices will be used to test all players and staff, and any individual who tests positive will be required to undertake a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) antigen test.

Two sets of results will be announced each week confirming the number of individuals tested and the number of positives.