In light of the increased transmission rate of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, the EFL has moved to implement a regime of enhanced training ground protocols, increased testing and has provided updated guidance on the minimum number of available players that are required to fulfil a fixture.
All 72 Clubs will now be required to implement enhanced RED protocols for first-team training settings. Social distancing measures will be required outside of physical sessions, along with restrictions to the use of indoor facilities, manual therapy and group travel, amongst others. The RED protocols can be accessed in full here.
As part of the enhanced guidance, Clubs will be expected to implement a daily screening programme of testing, subject to supply chain availability of Lateral Flow tests. Any person with a positive test of symptoms will then be required to take a PCR test and isolate in line with Government guidance.
In respect of the screening programme, the EFL will not be providing a weekly aggregate report on number of tests undertaken and the number of positive results. The rationale behind this decision is due to the volume of testing taking place that, depending on circumstances, may vary from club to club, alongside the rolling nature of the programme. The EFL will confirm the circumstances where positive tests lead to a postponement of a fixture.
In the wake of recent EFL fixture postponements due to COVID-19 cases at Clubs, the EFL has also provided guidance on non-fulfilment of fixtures, confirming that Clubs will be expected to play where it has 14 players including a goalkeeper available from the Club’s registered squad list, Under 21 players not on the squad list but have played one League match, or any other contracted player not on the squad list but otherwise would have been eligible to play. The EFL will assist Clubs in their deliberations.
This guidance has been designed to help Clubs ensure the safety of players and staff while ensuring that the fixture schedule can be maintained wherever possible. Where any Club states it cannot fulfil a fixture, a report shall be filed with the EFL, and the circumstances reviewed.
On vaccination, the EFL is encouraging all eligible players and staff to get fully vaccinated and a booster jab to help protect colleagues and minimise the risk of fixtures being postponed. The EFL will also be supporting the Government’s ‘Get Boosted Now’ campaign over the coming weeks.
The latest vaccine data collated for November has shown that 75% of players across the EFL are either fully vaccinated, have had a single jab or intend to be vaccinated. Double vaccinated players total 59%, 16% are set to get the jab, while 25% of players currently do not intend to get a vaccine.
Commenting, the EFL’s Medical Advisor, Dr Richard Higgins said: “Further to enhanced medical guidance recently issued, in response to a growing number of Covid-19 cases and subsequent fixtures postponements in recent days, the EFL has opted to strengthen its protocols for all Clubs to help minimise the health risks to individuals while seeking to mitigate against the threat of further fixture postponements in the weeks ahead.
“Alongside enhanced protocols which includes mandatory testing ahead of matchdays, the EFL continues to strongly encourage players and staff at Clubs to get fully vaccinated and obtain a booster jab if eligible to do so.
“We know that getting double jabbed and boosted now will reduce the risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19, reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 amongst team-mates and loved ones, while helping protect against COVID-19 variants including Omicron."