Blades reveal outbreak as Premier League positive Covid-19 tests hit season-high

Jonathan Veal, PA
·5-min read

The Premier League has returned its highest number of positive coronavirus tests this season, with Sheffield United and Fulham the latest clubs to be affected by an outbreak.

Between December 21 and 27, the League tested 1,479 players and club staff and 18 tested positive. They will now self-isolate for a period of 10 days.

The previous highest number of cases was 16, during the week of November 9-15.

A report in the Telegraph on Tuesday claimed several Premier League clubs have discussed the feasibility of a two-week ‘cooling-off’ period in January to help sides cope with outbreaks. However, the PA news agency understands the governing body is unaware of any such talks taking place.

Blades boss Chris Wilder revealed ahead of their evening kick-off at Burnley that the club had seen “a couple” of players and “four or five backroom staff” test positive. Wilder’s starting XI was unaffected, with just one change from the previous match, Oliver Burke dropping to the bench, but he was only able to name seven of a possible nine substitutes.

Wilder said neither he nor the club were looking to have the game delayed.

“It’s not an ideal situation but I don’t think we’re a club of one. It (the virus) is picking up and it’s running high at football clubs,” he told SUTV.

“We just notified the relevant authorities that we’ve had a situation at the football club. But I want to play football. That’s how it is, we’re not looking to get anything canned. We did the right thing as far as our responsibility to the Premier League and notified them regarding the players that are ill.”

The PA news agency understands that Fulham have also recorded a number of positive tests and Wednesday’s London derby at Tottenham is dependent on the results of the players and staff at Craven Cottage who are yet to receive their results.

Manchester City began retesting their squad on Tuesday in the hope they have acted quickly enough to prevent a widespread outbreak of the disease after their Monday game at Everton was called off at short notice due to a number of positive cases, while Arsenal confirmed on Monday that Brazilian defender Gabriel had tested positive for the virus.

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl did not attend his side’s match with West Ham following a positive test in his household.

A Premier League statement read: “The Premier League can today confirm that between Monday 21 December and Sunday 27 December, 1,479 players and Club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, there were 18 new positive tests.

“Players or club staff who have tested positive will self-isolate for a period of 10 days.

“The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public after each round of testing.”

Sheffield United have not revealed whether it is players or staff who are affected.

They said in a statement: “Sheffield United can confirm the club recorded a number of positive coronavirus tests after the latest round of testing.

“Due to medical confidentiality the club will not be revealing the names of those who have been affected.

“The individuals who have tested positive have now entered into a period of self-isolation in accordance with Premier League and Government guidelines.

“Everyone at Sheffield United would like to extend our best wishes to our colleagues and wish them a speedy recovery.”

The spike in cases, an increase of 11 from the previous week’s testing, will cause concern about the prospect of more disruption across English football.

Nine games across the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two on Tuesday have been wiped out because of the virus, while Rotherham boss Paul Warne said his side are only playing their match with Barnsley to avoid a possible points deduction by the EFL.

Rochdale are one of the clubs in League One whose next two games have been postponed and their club doctor Wes Tensel has called for the EFL to see the “bigger picture” and halt the current campaign.

Tensel, who is also a practising GP, told the PA news agency: “This is my opinion as a doctor. Some people will disagree, some won’t, this is just my opinion based on what I have seen working in the NHS and at a football club.

“That is my feeling as a doctor, as a football fan I don’t want it to stop. But I am trying to see the bigger picture. A lot of people have been affected this year, they have not been able to go on holiday and things, it must be a bit frustrating for them and they must ask, ‘why are footballers allowed to go all over the place?’

“If the government were to put us in another lockdown like we had with the very first one where it was just essential travel, then football should also stop as well.

“If they carry on with tiers, the fact that everything the government have done so far the cases are still increasing, I would have thought football probably should be postponed.

“Footballers travelling around the country are not causing spikes in different tiers but they can still pass it on to their loved ones because the football bubble they are in bursts every time they go home. There are consequences outside of the football pitch.”