Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard said the club could discuss the vaccine status of potential signings when they look to bolster their squad during the January transfer window, as rising COVID-19 cases at clubs raised fears of a rash of postponed games.
The Premier League said on Monday it was re-introducing “emergency measures” after a record 42 cases https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/premier-league-has-record-42-positive-covid-19-cases-past-week-2021-12-13 of COVID-19 among players and staff at clubs over the past week, shortly before Manchester United’s game against Brentford was called off due to an outbreak at the Old Trafford club.
England’s top-flight is in the midst of its busiest time of the season, with teams involved in the League Cup playing at least twice a week until the first week of January and further cancellations could leave an unwelcome fixture pile-up.
United’s game against Brentford was the second to be postponed this season due to COVID-19 after Tottenham Hotspur’s game at Brighton & Hove Albion over the weekend was called off.
Tottenham’s outbreak also meant their UEFA Conference League clash against Stade Rennais last week was also called off.
Leicester City, Brighton and Hove Albion, Norwich City and Aston Villa have also reported cases as the new Omicron coronavirus variant takes hold in Britain.
Clubs have been enjoying full stadiums again this season after playing for months in front of empty or restricted capacity stands from the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
The festive period is traditionally a feast for fans in Britain, with broadcaster Sky Sports trailing its coverage with the slogan “Christmas is for Football”.
But rising COVID-19 infections are threatening to put a dampener on the hectic holiday programme, raising fears of a return to restricted attendances or even empty stadiums as seen in Germany and the Netherlands.
From Wednesday, fans will need to show proof of double vaccination under England’s “plan B” of measures to slow the spread of the Omicron variant that are being voted on by legislators on Tuesday.
The Premier League, desperate to avoid a flurry of postponements, has ramped up its COVID-19 requirements for clubs, including daily testing, face coverings to be worn inside and stricter social distancing.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged that all adults will be offered a vaccine booster by the end of the month as concerns grow over the spread of Omicron.
Professional football has lagged behind in the take-up of COVOD-19 vaccines, with the Premier League releasing figures in October showing that 68% of its players were double-jabbed.
Addressing the situation in October, England manager Gareth Southgate said some young players were “more open to conspiracy theories” about vaccines.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has urged his players to get the jab.
“The doctors suggest we have to do it. Most of us have had it already and I think the players have to decide if they are going to do it,” the Spaniard said on Monday.
Gerrard, whose side also have had players and staff test positive this week, told British media on Monday their thorough recruitment process meant vaccine status could be considered when they speak to potential recruits.
“We look at everything. So I’m sure it will come up,” Gerrard said.
“But we’ll obviously make decisions as and when we decide a certain person is the one who could come in and make us better,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s right for me to comment on if I would or wouldn’t in that situation. But it would certainly come into conversations in the background.”
Villa, who are 13th, expect their match at bottom side Norwich City later on Tuesday to go ahead despite both clubs reporting COVID-19 cases.