Five sub­sti­tutes up for de­bate af­ter play­ers’ Covid-19 cases rise

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - By Jeremy Wil­son

The spike in Covid-19 cases among foot­ballers, quar­an­tine rules and the trun­cated pre-sea­son have en­cour­aged pro­po­nents of ad­di­tional Premier League sub­sti­tutes to push again for their in­tro­duc­tion next sea­son.

Al­though the con­tin­u­a­tion of a rule that was brought in dur­ing Project Restart was de­feated 13-7 in a vote of Premier League clubs this month, it will again be put to a share­holder’s meet­ing on Thurs­day.

A ma­jor swing would still be re­quired for five sub­sti­tutes to be agreed in­stead of the usual three, but there is a feel­ing that the case for greater flex­i­bil­ity and rotation has been greatly strength­ened fol­low­ing all the dis­rup­tion of a se­verely short­ened pre-sea­son.

Play­ers who test pos­i­tive for Covid-19 should not re­sume full train­ing for at least two weeks fol­low­ing a pos­i­tive test and there is al­ready less than a fort­night be­fore the new 2020-21 sea­son be­gins.

Manch­ester United mid­fielder Paul Pogba was left out of France’s squad for their Na­tions League games next month af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive. Pogba’s United team-mate Aaron Wan-Bis­saka is in a manda­tory 14-day iso­la­tion fol­low­ing a hol­i­day in Dubai while, at Chelsea, Jorginho, Ross Barkley, Emer­son, Michy Bat­shuayi, Ma­son Mount, Fikayo To­mori, Tammy Abra­ham and Christian Pulisic are all in iso­la­tion. Six of them – not iden­ti­fied – have tested pos­i­tive and a fur­ther two are obliged to iso­late.

There was a pos­i­tive test for Covid-19 among the first team at Southamp­ton last week while Eng­land cap­tain Harry Kane missed the start of Spurs’ pre-sea­son be­cause he was obliged to quar­an­tine on re­turn­ing from a hol­i­day in the Ba­hamas.

Eng­land’s squad for the Na­tions League fix­tures against Ice­land and Den­mark are also ex­pected to be hit this week with Covid-re­lated with­drawals. With so many play­ers un

Test com­pleted: Brighton suc­cess­fully staged a pi­lot fix­ture with 2,500 fans

able to train, there is a feel­ing that more man­agers and clubs will be be­hind al­low­ing two ad­di­tional sub­sti­tutes. It is a pro­posal, how­ever, that is ul­ti­mately ex­pected to favour clubs with larger re­sources and big­ger squads.

Max­imis­ing the re­turn of fans will also be a key el­e­ment of Thurs­day’s meet­ing, es­pe­cially af­ter the Gov­ern­ment’s for­mu­la­tion of a new Sport Tech In­no­va­tion Group. Al­though fans will not be back at Premier League matches un­til Oc­to­ber, the new group, which will in­clude deputy chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer Jonathan Van-Tam, will con­sider how tech­nol­ogy could boost crowds be­yond 30 per cent.

“Many ex­perts helped get sport back on be­hind closed doors when that looked dif­fi­cult ear­lier this year – and I be­lieve they can help us un­lock the next chal­lenge,” cul­ture sec­re­tary Oliver Dow­den said.

Brighton suc­cess­fully staged a pi­lot with 2,500 fans in their pre­sea­son friendly with Chelsea on Satur­day.

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