Covid-19 cases in visiting teams have forced the postponement of the Liverpool versus Leeds United and Wolverhampton Wanderers versus Watford games scheduled for Boxing Day, the Premier League announced on Thursday.
The number of Premier League games called off due to Covid-19 outbreaks is now up to 12 in the last two weeks but the League said it was their intention to continue playing fixtures “where safely possible”.
“Following postponement requests from Leeds United and Watford as a result of Covid-19, the Premier League Board met this morning (Thursday) and regrettably agreed to call off the two affected clubs’ Boxing Day fixtures,” it said in a statement.
“The Board today was able to make its decisions in advance of Boxing Day to give clarity to clubs and their supporters. We apologise for the inconvenience and disruption caused to those fans’ festive plans.”
The League said Leeds would have been unable to fulfil the fixture due to a number of players with Covid-19, injuries and illness. Leeds said all the Covid-19 cases they have experienced are asymptomatic. The club’s training ground will be closed for two days.
Watford, who have already had two games called off this month, continue to have an insufficient number of players to field a team, the League said. “Due to players coming out of isolation, it is fully expected Watford will be available for their fixture on Tuesday (December 28), against West Ham United,” the League added.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said the League’s unique tradition of playing on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day should not change but they must allow five substitutions to protect players amid a gruelling schedule.
Top flight leagues in Europe adopted the rule to increase the number of substitutions per game to five to ease the workload on players amid the Covid-19 pandemic but Premier League clubs voted against the motion.
“The Boxing Day tradition is massively important. It’s a characteristic of this league,” Guardiola said ahead of Leicester’s visit on Sunday.
“The problem is the fixtures, the calendar, 365 days a year, the international teams with huge competitions and a lot of games... The players have two-three weeks holiday in the summer, then the season (starts) again, it’s too much.