December 21, 2021 1.56 pm

EFL to go ahead with festive football after COVID fears prompted circuit breaker talks

It comes as it is found that one in four EFL players are not vaccinated

EFL bosses have confirmed that there are no plans to pause football matches due to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, meaning Lincoln City are set to be in action this Boxing Day.

The English Football League has had to see a number of fixtures across the Championship, League One and League Two postponed in recent weeks due to positive coronavirus cases, including Lincoln City’s scheduled home game with Doncaster Rovers on Saturday, December 18.

Despite the disruption caused by COVID-19 and the ongoing fears of high transmission from the Omicron variant, football clubs in both the Premier League and the EFL have chosen to fulfil their festive fixtures rather than delay the league as was previously rumoured.

This means that Lincoln City’s Boxing Day (December 26) match with MK Dons at the LNER Stadium will go ahead so long as it is safe to do so and cases aren’t reported in the first team squads of either side.

The EFL has acknowledged that there will “likely be future postponements” to navigate through coronavirus troubles, as two Championship matches and five League Two games have already been called off due to COVID-19 on the Boxing Day list of matches.

As well as this, Grimsby Town’s National League home game with Boreham Wood, due to take place on Tuesday, December 21, has been postponed due to an “escalating” number of cases in Grimsby’s squad.

However, there is optimism within the football pyramid that this disruption can be “minimised” as the EFL has reintroduced red protocols, such as social distancing and restrictions on indoor facilities, as well as a daily testing regime, and it will continue its support of the vaccine rollout.

According to the latest vaccine data collated for November, 75% of EFL players are either fully vaccinated, have a single jab or intend to have the vaccine, with 59% of those double jabbed.

This means that there are currently one in four footballers across tiers 2-4 in English football that are not vaccinated and do not intend to be in the future.

The EFL have previously not been shy to put public health first at the height of a pandemic, as the 2019/20 season was curtailed in June 2020 when COVID-19 first spiralled out of control in the UK.

EFL Chief Executive Trevor Birch said: “Throughout the pandemic, our two priorities have been ensuring the welfare of those involved in EFL competitions and ensuring the fixture schedule can continue where it is safe to do so.

“We will continue to work with clubs, authorities and other agencies to monitor the COVID-19 case rate and be prepared to respond accordingly, yet for now the view remains that we can continue to deliver games safely where clubs have sufficient healthy personnel in place, on and off the pitch.

“With club mitigation measures, the mass adoption of booster jabs and Covid certification now required for larger crowds, we are sure many fans will continue to feel confident in attending matches over the Christmas period and we look forward to welcoming them.”

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