Il premier League is planning to revise its controversial Covid regulations which have caused the postponement of 22 fixtures over the past five weeks.
Rules could be changed for the round of fixtures beginning on 8 febbraio, with the league crediting a recent fall in the number of positive Covid tests among players and staff.
Discussions have taken place with clubs but no changes are expected before this weekend’s matches. Teams will then go on a planned winter break between 24 January and 3 febbraio, with the FA Cup fourth round running from 4-7 febbraio.
A shareholders’ meeting could be held next week and any rule change would require the support of 14 or more clubs.
Regulations on Covid suspensions were agreed by clubs, who voted them through at a board meeting last year, but they have become the subject of dispute, with Tottenham releasing a statement criticising the decision to postpone their game at home to Arsenal last weekend and calling for “clarity and consistency on the application of the rule”.
Spurs said that whereas “the original intention of the guidance was to deal with player availability directly affected by Covid cases”, the “unintended consequences” of the rule meant that decisions were being taken due to “player availability unrelated to Covid”.
On Wednesday Mikel Arteta defended Arsenal’s decision to apply for a postponement. “We got to a point where we could not make a squad available with the numbers required in this league to play a game,” the manager said. “That’s why we did not play; it’s as simple as that.”
The rules as laid out do allow games to be called off for injuries unrelated to Covid, if they contribute to an overall shortage of players. Applications are considered by the league when a team cannot field 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper from “either its squad list or its appropriately experienced Under-21 players”. The league says its medical team scrutinises all requests and will go back to clubs if they feel there is insufficient clarity on the status of players’ fitness.
A Premier League spokesperson said: “The Premier League is consulting with our clubs regarding Covid-19 postponement rules and guidance in light of the changing national picture and the falling number of cases within our squads.
“The League’s current guidance was amended in December following the emergence of the new Omicron variant and we continue to monitor the ongoing effects of the virus and will update our guidance accordingly.”