Premier League: Managers and players set to vent frustrations over intense festive schedule amid Covid-19 chaos

·3-min read
Premier League: Managers and players set to vent frustrations over intense festive schedule amid Covid-19 chaos

The Premier League will hold separate meetings today with managers and captains amid mounting opposition to the controversial decision to continue with the current packed top-flight fixture schedule during the Covid-19 crisis.

All 20 coaches and skippers are due to hold separate Zoom calls with the League on Thursday afternoon after an initial meeting with executives on Monday led to the decision that the festive schedule would continue as planned without a "circuit breaker" despite record case numbers.

Suspending a round of matches or halting the season altogether were the options discussed, but a majority of clubs were in favour of playing on and no options went to a vote.

The Premier League wants to continue as planned “where safe to do so” and clubs were advised that they should be prepared to play if they have 13 available players, including a goalkeeper.

However, the decision to play on has been met with fierce criticism from many, with players and managers expected to raise their objections at today's meetings.

Some believe carrying on amid record numbers of positive tests is putting safety at risk.

Last weekend, six out of 10 scheduled Premier League matches were postponed due to Covid outbreaks and the League later announced a record 90 positives among 12,345 tests on players and staff over the previous seven days - up from 42 positives from 3,805 tests in the previous seven-day period.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has been adamant that his stretched squad simply cannot meet the demands currently placed on them as he stressed the importance of player welfare.

"I don't just speak about player welfare this year, I have been speaking about it for six years or maybe longer," he said after Wednesday's thrilling Carabao Cup quarter-final penalty shootout win over Leicester.

"If the things I say would help more, I would say it much more often. But it doesn't help.

"The only thing I do with these messages is I create headlines. They never arrive at the right places. We have a meeting at 4pm but it's with the Premier League and not with the EFL, I'm not sure if they are involved or not.”

Klopp additionally called for the Carabao Cup semi-finals to be reduced to one leg, while Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson says he is worried that no one is taking the issue of player welfare seriously.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson believes the issue of player welfare is not being taken seriously (Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson believes the issue of player welfare is not being taken seriously (Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta and Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel have also raised their concerns.

"I don't think people can appreciate how intense it is until you actually see it first hand," Henderson told BBC Sport.

"Football to us is everything and we want to be able to perform at the highest level every time we set foot on the pitch. And unfortunately, in this period it is difficult to do that.

"That has been like this for a few years now and it has been difficult but then, on top of that, you chuck in Covid and it becomes even harder and even worse. I am concerned that nobody really takes player welfare seriously.

"I think decisions get made - of course we want to play, as footballers we want to get out there and play - but I am worried about player welfare and I don't think anybody does take that seriously enough, especially in this period, when Covid is here.

"We will try to have conversations in the background and try to have some sort of influence going forward, but at the minute I don't feel the players get the respect they deserve in terms of having somebody being able to speak for them independently and having the power to say actually this isn't right for player welfare."

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