PL Braced for Legal Actions with Clubs Furious at the Board’s Handling of Covid Postponements.

PL Braced for Legal Actions with Clubs Furious at the Board’s Handling of Covid Postponements.

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23 Jan 2022
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Premier League

The Premier League could face legal action from clubs if they change the rules on Covid cancellations next week, with the season in danger of ending in a quagmire of injunctions and court cases.

Several clubs are furious at the perceived inconsistency in how the 22 postponed games so far have been handled. The issue came to a head last weekend after the north London derby was called off despite Arsenal having just one confirmed Covid case. Clubs are likely to consider legal action.

The Premier League clubs will meet in the next two weeks to discuss if the rules should be changed, with many feeling the spirit of the law is being stretched in a way in which it was never intended, potentially to cover suspensions and players absent because they are at the Africa Cup of Nations.

But leading football QC Nick De Marco, who recently represented Newcastle in an arbitration case against the Premier League, says a rule change mid-season could establish legal grounds to challenge the Premier League on the basis of inconsistency and unfairness.

That could lead to clubs seeking injunctions against the Premier League, insisting that their games be called off and ultimately ending up in court if the Premier League and FA arbitration processes cannot act quickly enough to satisfy a club’s needs.

One club executive said: ‘The Premier League have made a rod for their own backs because they started including injuries as well as Covid. Omicron hopefully is on the wane so I don’t see why they should change the rules. They are doing it because of the reaction from the north London derby being postponed.’

Another club, whose opponents applied for a postponement recently, said they were ‘p***** off about it’ and are not considering legal action only because they do not think the postponement will materially affect their season.

Another Premier League medic said some clubs are ‘taking the p*** out of the rules’, which state a club must have 13 players of suitable experience plus a goalkeeper to play a game.

The rules were hastily introduced in December, when it became clear football might be affected by Omicron infections and by non-vaccinated players still having to isolate if they were a close contact of another infected player.

Toughening up the rules, to stop clubs citing suspensions or injuries, would require the support of 14 clubs at the emergency meeting planned for the winter break. The Premier League’s rules have led to far more postponements than in Europe’s other major leagues.

Clubs who have large numbers of players unvaccinated have been able to cite them as absentees when they have had to isolate as close contact, even though they do not have Covid.

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