The Premier League have confirmed that clubs will have to prove they have at least four cases of Covid-19 in their squad before making an application for a match to be postponed due to insufficient numbers.
The new postponement guidance, voted on today by clubs, overrides an update issued in December which was introduced in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant.
Why did the rules change? While it’s reductive to say “because Arsenal boiled everyone’s piss by testing pushing them to the limit”, that is, pretty much, exactly the reason.
Working within the margins of the previous rules, Arsenal were able to successfully appeal for the north London derby to be postponed despite Martin Odegaard being the only player in the dressing room to test positive for the virus.
His absence, combined with several injuries and four first team members being at the African Cup of Nations meant Mikel Arteta wasn’t able to raise a sufficiently experienced squad of 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper.
Under the new rules, we’d have had to rely on Academy kids to make up the numbers at White Hart Lane, which is basically what would have happened had this been an FA Cup tie; a competition with its own Covid postponement protocols.
It’ll be interesting to see if any clubs moan about the rules being updated when they suddenly struggle to raise numbers. It’s not clear if anyone voted against the new guidance being introduced.
On a separate note, the Premier League has also updated its Covid-19 guidance for fans after the UK government eased its “Autumn and Winter Plan B” restrictions.
In simple terms, NHS Covid passes or proof of a negative lateral test will no longer be a condition of entry to matches.
Clubs, including Arsenal, had been operating a pretty loose ‘spot check’ policy, so very few people were actually bothered by stewards as they queued for entry at Emirates Stadium.