In the space of a week, the Premier League and the English Football League has gone from being largely unaffected by COVID to having many games called off because of it. The whole English football system has been shaken up in the last week with many unexpected postponements. In fact, 25 out of the 46 fixtures for the last matchday in the Premier League and the English Football League were postponed and many teams are aggrieved about either having their game postponed or on the contrary, given the rapid increase in COVID cases, not having it postponed.

The problem with having games postponed is that these games will have to be played sometime before the end of the season. This means that if a club has multiple fixtures postponed, then these rescheduled matches could result in a build up of games being played alongside that club’s regular fixture list. This could cause fatigue in the squad and damage that team’s season; such being the case with Tottenham Hotspur Football Club who are now three games behind. Spurs have also been affected by match cancellations in European football, where they were forced to forfeit their game against Renne in the UEFA Conference League, who were given a 3-0 win by UEFA. Because of this “defeat” Spurs only finished third in the group and were consequently eliminated from the competition.

Alternatively, having games played despite the teams involved having self-isolating players has also proved challenging as many teams have had to play despite depleted squads. One such club is Chelsea who have had two disappointing draws this week; at home to Everton and against Wolves at the Molineux. In both games, Chelsea were without six regular starters including both of their strikers, Werner and Lukaku. Undoubtedly because of this, Chelsea looked far from their usual clinical selves against Everton. They requested for the clash with Wolves to be called off but were denied by the Premier League despite the number of crucial players missing. Chelsea then went into the game with a similar team to which they played against Everton and were again lacking the killer touch, putting only one of their eight shots on target in the goalless draw. Other clubs around the country have faced similar dilemmas.

Something that must also not be forgotten is that COVID cases in general are on the rise due to the spreading of the Omicron variant in the UK. With this variant that spreads more easily, it could be argued that having large crowds at football stadiums is unsafe. Although the stadiums are classed as being outside, the fact that the crowds are so tightly packed could cause the virus to spread quite easily. For example, 52,127 people attended the clash between Newcastle and Manchester City, despite St. James’ Park only having a capacity of 52,405. The question must be asked whether it is safe to have this many people in a space where there is little room for social distancing.

These three factors are all pointing to the same thing - a possible pause in English Football. Of course, all of the football leagues, clubs, players and fans want football to continue, but if the situation worsens, as COVID cases rise due to the Omicron variant this winter, this outcome looks more and more likely. Although this decision would be unpopular to many, it would preserve fairness in the game, protect players and fans and give time for the outbreaks in these clubs and in the UK to decline.

Football clubs have certainly been doing their bit to help with the vaccine and booster roll out. Many London clubs including Charlton Athletic, Arsenal, West Ham, Chelsea, Spurs, Crystal Palace and Bromley FC, have all been used as venues for pop up vaccination clinics at various times over the last year.

The problem that football faces with the COVID situation is that if the correct precautions are not put in place, cases could rise exponentially. If action is taken before the number of cases becomes too high, then the virus will be easier to contain. Even if this means a short pause in English football or some games are held behind closed doors, this would be better than a total stop like we have witnessed before. At the time of writing, the 20 Premier League clubs are currently discussing whether the fixture list for the remainder of the Premier League and English Football League season should continue or have a festive circuit breaker.