Aston Villa’s match against Burnley has been postponed after more positive Covid cases in the Villa squad, the Premier League has announced.
The postponement leaves only one Premier League match remaining from the six that were scheduled to take place on Saturday, with Leeds against Arsenal in the late kick-off the only surviving fixture.
A Premier League statement read: “Due to more positive cases in the Aston Villa squad today, the Premier League Board has regrettably had to postpone the club’s home fixture against Burnley, due to kick off at 3pm this afternoon.
“After reviewing all the new information provided by Aston Villa this morning and receiving separate medical advice, the board approved the request as a result of the club not having enough players to field a team.
“This decision was based on the number of Covid-19 cases, injuries and illness.”
The statement continued: “The league understands the decision to postpone the match at such short notice will frustrate and disappoint supporters, and apologises for the inconvenience and disruption caused.
“The remaining four Premier League matches due to be played this weekend are currently scheduled to proceed as planned.
“The board assesses applications to postpone matches on a case-by-case basis, based on existing rules and Covid-19 postponement guidance issued to all clubs.
“It 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 representatives may come into contact with.
“With the health and wellbeing of all players and staff the priority, and in light of the recent rise in Covid-19 cases across the country, the Premier League has reintroduced emergency measures.
“These include protocols such as more frequent testing, wearing face coverings while indoors, observing social distancing and limiting treatment time.”
It is understood the request from Villa was received after 10am. The Premier League checked the data, held a board call at midday and then made the announcement 40 mins later, around two and a half hours after receiving the initial request.
Villa acknowledged and apologised for the late postponement, which came a little over two hours before the match was due to kick off, but insisted they acted as quickly as they could.
A club statement read: “The results of PCR tests, which were taken yesterday prior to training as well as lateral flow tests, were received this morning and confirmed further depletion of our playing squad which was already impacted upon for our trip to Norwich in midweek.
“All individuals who tested positive are now isolating in line with Premier League and government guidance and protocols.
“The club is extremely sorry for the inconvenience caused to Burnley, both our own supporters and the Burnley fans due to attend the fixture but have acted as swiftly as possible this morning to minimise disruption.”
Three of Sunday’s four scheduled Premier League fixtures remain, after Leicester’s trip to Burnley was postponed.
Wolves against Chelsea, Tottenham’s home game against Liverpool and Newcastle against Manchester City are all set to go ahead, with City boss Pep Guardiola cleared to take charge of his team at St James’ Park.
Guardiola recorded an ‘inconclusive’ coronavirus test and cancelled his weekly media briefing on Friday.
The 50-year-old had a second test and his PCR test returned negative so he will be on the touchline against Newcastle.
The PA news agency understands Premier League chairmen and chief executives will convene at an emergency shareholders meeting on Monday to discuss the Covid-19 crisis engulfing the competition, with managers also due to meet.
Six of this weekend’s 10 scheduled matches have been postponed due to positive Covid tests, and Villa manager Steven Gerrard revealed a meeting was being organised by the league early next week to tackle the club bosses’ “concerns and unanswered questions”, in particular around the criteria used by the Premier League board to grant approval to a postponement.
English Football League chairman Rick Parry insists there are no plans to pause their competition because of Covid-19.
There have been 19 games postponed across the EFL this weekend because of a surge in cases.
Speaking to BBC Football Focus, Parry said: “If we think a circuit-breaker will help we will do it but, at the moment, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that it will help.
“If you look at the geographical spread, there are areas where games can go ahead and where they can’t.
“There’s talk of the government having a two-week lockdown after Christmas so maybe that will be taken out of our hands.
“We are getting more information listening to the scientists, they need more data to try to work out exactly where we are going with this new strain. It is too early to tell.
“Next week we might be in a different position. We’ve got to stick together, stay calm and keep making balanced decisions on the basis of the latest information.”