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Premier League

Fans will be happy at new Covid rules to try and get games called off, West Ham were victims of our own success

IT WAS clear clubs would be accused of poking around trying to find a way of taking advantage of the conditions leading to the postponement of Premier League matches because of Covid-19.

Several were, mainly because the rules were found to be as watertight as wet paper.

Covid spot checks have been required at football grounds across England

And, naturally, there were protests from rivals — especially rivals who had requested delays which were turned down.

After all, they were supposed to competing in a £6billion competition on a level playing field.

I suppose you can’t blame clubs for trying their luck.

But when it was discovered one side had only a SINGLE Covid victim and the other players put forward were all either injured, “ill” in some other way, or on duty in the Africa Cup of Nations, you can’t blame fans for having the hump.

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The return of absented players might be the difference between reaching European competition or being relegated, a fate  certainly not worse than death but definitely one worth trying to fiddle.

Not the right thing to happen in the best of all possible competitions, then.

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So, the rules have now been tightened and any further applications will be rigorously checked.

As Omicron begins to fade, there may be a reducing number of applications, although another variant could even now be joining the queue to wreck or destroy lives, never mind postponing a few football matches. Fingers crossed.

Coming up we have a new, improved threshold to meet before you can apply for your game to the postponed and I suspect the Premier League executive will breathe a sigh of relief knowing that, going forward, they do not have to deal with semi-bogus claims.

From a week today a club must have four (definitely not one) Covid cases and less than 13 players plus one (the plus one being a goalkeeper) to even request a game is called off.

Which leads me to a question so far without an answer:

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If this rule had been in place previously, how many of the 22 postponed games would NOT have been because the clubs fell short of this threshold?

I have no answer but I suspect it would be at least half, probably more.

The positive case threshold is being moved from one to four before an application can be made, so don’t be surprised if you do not see many — or even any — future postponements.

Previously, an “uncontrolled” outbreak at a club was two cases but now adjusted to double that, because it was perfectly possible to have two or more positive tests on consecutive days.

Fans will applaud. A late call-off is aggravating to everyone, except the club who asked for it.

Still, there is bound to be fury should a ‘false’ postponement disadvantage your team when points are finally added up at the end of the season.

At West Ham we did have four Covid cases but more than the 13 players plus a keeper were still fit because we had won our Europa League group before the final game, so gave some of our Under-23s a chance to play.

Therefore, they all qualified as being available players to make up the 13, so it would be practically impossible for us to get a future game called off!

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A victim of our own success, really. But we just got on with it.

It’s the West Ham Way — or rather, the David Moyes Way.

It is evident from the low number of postponements in other countries that their model was far better than ours.

The figures are spectacular. Germany had one, Italy five, Spain one and France three.

It would be risky to suggest we have Omicron on the run but the news supporters no longer need Covid passports in stadiums is excellent.

Meanwhile, the players must still wear masks at the training ground, a complete anomaly as if they go to supermarkets or even a night club, they don’t have to — and neither does business in the fresh air.

 Read our Transfer News Live blog for the very latest rumours, gossip and done deals

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