Manchester United vs Brighton: Premier League's Covid postponement criteria remains puzzling after latest statement

The Premier League is resisting calls to suspend all matches this weekend despite a raft of Covid-related postponements in the last 48 hours.

Manchester United's match against Brighton was the fourth Premier League fixture to be postponed this season due to Covid
Manchester United's match against Brighton was the fourth Premier League fixture to be postponed this season due to Covid

Manchester United’s match against Brighton on Saturday is the latest to have been called off due to the number of Covid-19 cases in the Red Devils camp, with Thursday’s game between Leicester and Tottenham also postponed.

The number of postponed weekend matches across England’s top four divisions reached double figures by 3pm on Thursday, with the EFL announcing stricter Covid protocols including increased testing.

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United are understood to have had only nine players available because of Covid and other injuries for Tuesday’s game against Brentford, which was called off late on Monday night, and just seven for the Saturday lunchtime match against Brighton at Old Trafford.

Brentford manager Thomas Frank called for all of the weekend’s top-flight matches to be postponed, with the highly-transmissible Omicron variant wreaking havoc with the schedule, but the league is currently intending to play as many games as possible.

In confirming the postponement of a second Manchester United match, the league said in a statement: “It is with regret that this is the fourth Premier League fixture to have been postponed in the past week.

“While recognising a number of clubs are experiencing Covid-19 outbreaks, it is the league’s intention to continue its current fixture schedule where safely possible. The health and wellbeing of all concerned remains our priority.”

The Premier League said it "assesses applications on a case-by-case basis" and decisions are "based on existing rules and Covid-19 postponement guidance issued to all clubs".

It added: "It [the board] will assess a number of factors, including the ability of a club to field a team; the status, severity and potential impact of the Covid-19 outbreak at the club; and the ability of the players to safely prepare for and play the match.

"The board must also consider the wider risks to the opposition and other people the club may come into contact with."

Brighton’s slated meeting with Tottenham last Sunday was postponed due to a Covid outbreak at the north London club, while Brentford versus Manchester United and Watford’s trip to Burnley were called off in similar circumstances on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.

Earlier today Leicester's clash with Tottenham at the King Power was also pushed back as clubs grapple to contain the virus.

Albion head coach Graham Potter looked a resigned figure after Wednesday night's 1-0 loss to Wolves at the Amex. Potter revealed Albion were unsuccessful in their request for Wednesday evening’s clash with Wolves – a 1-0 loss – to be rearranged following a Covid-19 and injury crisis at the club.

The Premier League consider treat each covid-related postponement requests on a case by case basis but given the previous call-offs, it seemed strange that last night's match between Brighton and Wolves was allowed to take place.

The Albion head coach said on Wednesday that he believed it will be difficult for the Premier League to continue with the current trend of only some games being deemed worthy of postponement due to coronavirus infections among players.

“We asked the question because of our situation,” he said of a possible postponement after the Wolves loss.

“You haven’t really got time to be disappointed (with being turned down). It was about preparing the team, preparing for the game.”

Speaking of the apparent lack of consistency in decision-making, he continued: “You obviously have to think everyone is doing things in the best intentions.

“There will be frustration with that.

“It would be better if it was more transparent but at the same time you’re talking about medical information so I don’t know how transparent that can be.

“I think the path we’re on, I’m not sure how long we can stay on it for.

“We all want football to continue, want life to continue as best as we can but clearly health is the most important thing.

“We’ve got some issues ourselves and this week has been a little bit disturbing in terms of how quickly we’ve been affected.

“If that carries on then we’ll have to have some serious thought (about action being suspended).”