Aston Villa Suffer COVID-19 Outbreak As Concerns Grow For Premier League Season

Aston Villa’s Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez throws the ball during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Sheffield Utd at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on September 21, 2020. Tim Goode / POOL / AFP

 

Aston Villa became the fourth Premier League club to suffer a coronavirus outbreak on Thursday, adding to growing concerns over whether English football’s top-flight can complete the season on schedule.

Villa were forced to cancel training and close their training ground after two rounds of testing returned multiple positive cases of Covid-19 among players and staff.

Britain is battling a highly infectious strain of the virus which has forced a new nationwide lockdown after cases soared in recent days.

“A large number of first-team players and staff returned positive tests after being routinely tested on Monday and immediately went into isolation,” Villa said in a statement.

“A second round of testing was carried out immediately and produced more positive results today.”

The Birmingham-based club’s FA Cup third-round tie against Liverpool on Friday is now at risk of being postponed.

“First-team training ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup match with Liverpool was cancelled,” Villa’s statement added.

“Discussions are ongoing between medical representatives of the club, the Football Association and the Premier League.”

Premier League Southampton’s FA Cup home match against Shrewsbury has already been postponed because there have been a number of positive cases at the League One club.

Wayne Rooney’s Derby will fulfil their fixture at minnows Chorley with a youth team after nine positive tests among first-team players and staff.

– Fixture pile-up –

On Tuesday, a record high of 40 positive tests were detected among Premier League players and staff in the week between December 28 and January 3.

Three Premier League matches were postponed last week due to outbreaks at Manchester City and Fulham.

Due to the late end to last season, the league is less than halfway through the 2020/21 campaign.

The packed fixture schedule, with domestic leagues, cup and European competitions having to be finished before the delayed Euro 2020 starting on June 11, leaves little room for manoeuvre.

Despite the rising case numbers and calls from some within the game for a circuit breaker to buy time and bring infection rates down, the Premier League has so far been adamant that the season will proceed.

“With low numbers of positive tests across the overwhelming majority of clubs, the league continues to have confidence in its Covid-19 protocols, fully backed by the government, to enable fixtures to be played as scheduled,” the league said on Tuesday.

However, a number of embarrassing incidents have come to light in which prominent players have flouted coronavirus restrictions, doing little to aid English football’s case to keep going while movements in the rest of the country are highly restricted.

Pictures of Tottenham trio Erik Lamela, Sergio Reguilon and Giovani Lo Celso and West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini attending a Christmas party with family and friends emerged over the weekend, prompting Spurs to promise internal disciplinary proceedings.

Manchester City have also launched an investigation after left-back Benjamin Mendy admitted to breaching Covid protocols by hosting a New Year’s Eve party.

Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic and Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic also broke the rules to attend a New Year’s Eve party.

Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow has been among those calling for tougher sanctions for players who break the regulations and put the season at risk.

Villa captain Jack Grealish was fined two weeks’ wages by the club for a breach of the rules last year.

“There are moments when young people will stray from the rules and, whether you’re a parent or the chief executive of a football club, that’s a time when you have to be very strict and remind people of their responsibilities,” Purslow said earlier this week.

Despite the new national lockdown that came into force in England on Wednesday, the British government has said elite sport can continue despite the tighter restrictions.

AFP

English Football Agrees Plan For Overseas Players After Brexit

Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino celebrates after scoring a goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Leicester City at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on November 22, 2020. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP
Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino celebrates after scoring a goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Leicester City at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on November 22, 2020.
Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP

 

English football’s governing bodies have agreed a plan for entry requirements that must be fulfilled for clubs to sign overseas players after Brexit.

The English Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League joined forces to submit their proposal to the UK government last month.

It has now been approved by Home Office officials, providing the framework for Premier League and Football League clubs to sign overseas players when the UK leaves the European Union (EU) after December 31.

After Brexit, clubs will not be able to sign EU players freely.

Players from EU countries who want to play in the Premier League or EFL will be required to gain a ‘governing body endorsement’.

That will be decided on a points-based system, where points are scored for senior and talented young players based on senior and youth international appearances, quality of the selling club — based on the league they are in, league position and progression in continental competition — and the total number of club appearances.

In the Premier League, the number of overseas Under-21 players a club can sign will be limited to three in the January transfer window and six per season moving forwards.

Under FIFA’s rules, the UK’s exit from the EU will also mean that clubs will not be able to sign players from overseas until they are 18.

“Despite having different starting perspectives on how Brexit should impact football, this is another example of how the football authorities can work effectively together for the greater good of the game,” FA chief executive officer Mark Bullingham said.

Richard Masters, the Premier League’s chief executive, added: “The Premier League has worked with the FA to come to an agreement to ensure no part of Brexit should damage the success of the Premier League, or the prospects of the England teams.”

AFP

English Clubs On Brink Of Collapse- EFL Chairman

The empty stadium is pictured ahead of the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium in London on July 15, 2020.
Glyn KIRK / POOL / AFP

 

 

English football is facing the “collapse of the national league structure” unless clubs receive emergency help, ministers were warned on Monday.

A letter to culture secretary Oliver Dowden co-signed by a group of prominent figures including two former Football Association chairmen, paints a stark picture of the financial crisis engulfing the game.

The government announced last week that plans for spectators to return to sports venues from October 1 had been scrapped due to a spike in coronavirus infections.

Clubs in the English Football League (the three tiers below the Premier League) stand to lose £200 million ($258 million) this season if they are required to play the whole campaign in empty stadiums.

EFL chairman Rick Parry has warned that some clubs “are on the brink” of collapse.

Monday’s letter, whose signatories include former FA chairmen Greg Dyke and Lord Triesman as well as a number of lawmakers, said time was running out.

“Without any plans being made to rescue football clubs, many in the EFL and others in the National League as well, are now actively preparing to make all but essential staff redundant, cease playing, close down their youth academies and community foundations, and put their business into administration,” the letter says.

“This could lead not only to the failure of many historic community clubs, but the collapse of the national league structure that we have known for over 100 years.”

The situation is critical, the signatories say, with many clubs unable to meet their payroll obligations for next month.

Dowden believes the wealthy Premier League should step in to help lower-league clubs.

But the signatories point out that top-flight clubs also “face swingeing losses from lost ticketing receipts and falling revenues from broadcasting matches”.

The letter refers to the £1.5 billion rescue package for Britain’s arts sector in July.

“We believe that football, like other well-loved professional sports in this country, is also a cultural activity,” the signatories say.

“We would ask that the government now make clear what financial support it’s prepared to give before it is too late.”

-AFP

Sterling Calls For More Black Managers In Football

Manchester City’s English midfielder Raheem Sterling goes for a header during the UEFA Champions League Group C football match Atalanta Bergamo vs Manchester City on November 6, 2019 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Manchester City star Raheem Sterling has urged English football to use the global anti-racism protests to initiate debates and find solutions regarding the lack of black representation in top leadership positions in the sport.

Calling for racial justice, thousands of protesters have rallied across the UK, joining a wave of demonstrations sparked by the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of US police last month.

England forward Sterling, who has previously been prominent in calling out racism in both the domestic and international game, is the latest sports star to lend his support to the protests.

“The protest is a great starting point, to make your voice be heard. But just protesting alone is not going to make a change in this country,” Sterling said Monday in a BBC TV interview.

“It’s how we move on from here. It’s about highlighting things, the society that needs changing, and then acting upon it. We’ve done a lot of talking, and it’s time now to act.”

“This is a time to speak on these subjects, speak on injustice, especially in my field,” he added.

READ ALSO: Cyprus Welcomes First Tourist Flights Since March

Sterling pointed a finger at the long-running disparity between the number of high-profile Black, Asian and minority ethnic players and the dearth of those who go on to hold significant managerial, coaching or administrative jobs.

“There’s something like 500 players in the Premier League and a third of them are black and we have no representation of us in the hierarchy, no representation of us in the coaching staff. There’s not a lot of faces that we can relate to and have conversations with,” he said.

“With these protests that are going on it’s all well and good just talking, but it’s time that we need to have conversations, to be able to spark debates.

“But at same time, it’s coming together and finding a solution to be able to spark change because we can talk as much as we want about changing and putting people, black people, in these positions that I do feel they should be in.”

– ‘Give equal chances’ –

Sterling contrasted the managerial paths of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who have landed top roles at Rangers and Chelsea, to equally experienced black players who have been compelled to start much lower down the ladder.

“The coaching staff that you see around football clubs: there’s Steven Gerrard, your Frank Lampards, your Sol Campbells and your Ashley Coles. All had great careers, all played for England,” said Sterling.

“At the same time, they’ve all respectfully done their coaching badges to coach at the highest level and the two that haven’t been given the right opportunities are the two black former players.

“The change is being able to speak to people in Parliament, people at the hierarchy at my football club, football clubs across the country, people at the national team of England, to implement change and give equal chances to not just black coaches but also different ethnicities.

“I feel like that’s what’s lacking here, it’s not just taking the knee, it is about giving people the chance they deserve.”

AFP

No Positives In Latest Round Of Premier League COVID-19 Tests

In this file photo taken on January 02, 2017 Fans shield their eyes from the Sun during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Southampton at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England. Paul ELLIS / AFP
In this file photo taken on January 02, 2017 Fans shield their eyes from the Sun during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Southampton at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north-west England. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

 

The Premier League’s plan to restart on June 17 received a fresh boost Saturday after the latest round of coronavirus tests produced no new positive cases in English football’s top flight.

A total of 1,195 players and club staff were tested in the sixth edition of screening, which took place on Thursday and Friday.

“The Premier League can confirm that on Thursday 4 June and Friday 5 June, 1,195 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, zero have tested positive,” the league said in a statement.

Saturday’s announcement means there have been a mere 13 positives from an overall 6,274 tests carried out on Premier League players and club staff.

Testing will continue on a twice-weekly basis as officials look to resume a season that was suspended in March because of the pandemic.

Manchester United Beat Southampton To Claim League Cup

Zlatan Ibrahimovic shines as Manchester United Beat Southampton To Claim League CupZlatan Ibrahimovic scored a dramatic 87th minute winner as Manchester United beat Southampton 3-2 to win the English Football League Cup in a pulsating Wembley final.

Ibrahimovic had given United the lead with a sublime free-kick before Jesse Lingard made it 2-0 from the edge of the box after Marcos Rojo’s cut-back.

Southampton staged a remarkable fightback with two goals from Manolo Gabbiadini.

Ibrahimovic’s powerful header from Ander Herrera’s cross secured Jose Mourinho his first major trophy in his first season as Manchester United manager.

Everton Sack Coach Roberto Martinez

Martinez, EvertonRoberto Martinez has been sacked by Everton with immediate effect. The club officially announced this on Thursday afternoon.

The statement by the club reads; “Everton Football Club regrets to announce that Roberto Martinez has left his position as First Team Manager with immediate effect.

“The Chairman and the Board of Directors would like to place on record their thanks for the dedication and commitment Roberto has shown during his three seasons with the Club.

“Roberto has been a great ambassador for the Club, conducting himself, at all times, with the utmost integrity and dignity.

“He secured the Club its highest ever Premier League points total, a place in the last 16 of the Europa League and appearances in both domestic cup semi-finals.

“He has also played a key role in the development of several young players, managing their progression to the Everton First Team and International honours.”

The Toffees have picked up only four Premier League points since March 5 and the 3-0 loss to Sunderland on Wednesday stretched their dismal run of form to just one win in 10 matches in all competitions.

Although Martinez has led Everton to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and Capital One Cup this season, it appears the club’s poor league form has proved his downfall.

Everton are 12th on the log and, with only one match remaining, they are set to finish in the bottom half for a second straight year.

 

Mahrez, Vardy Dedicate PFA Awards To Teammates

Jarmie Vardy Riyad Mahrez PFA AwardsLeicester City players, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy have dedicated their English football’s PFA awards to their teammates.

Mahrez, who is an Algerian, becomes the first African player to win a Professional Footballers Association (PFA) players award.

The Leicester City winger beat teammate, Vardy, Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Arsenal midfielder, Mesut Ozil to clinch the award.

Scoring 17 goals with 11 assists, Mahrez has been one of the main reasons behind Leicester’s phenomenal rise to the top of the English Premier League, sitting eight points clear with three games remaining.

Vardy, who has 22 goals for the league leaders was also honoured by the PFA for becoming the first player to score in 11 consecutive premier league matches earlier this season.

Meanwhile, Leicester City fans in Thailand are confident the team would lift their first league title this season.

Hundreds of blue-shirted Thai fans watched the league leaders’ 4-0 win over Swansea City on live screens in Bangkok.

The fans believed it was time to do the unthinkable in their club history.

Manchester United Secures Mega Deal With Adidas

Man unitedEnglish Premier League side, Manchester United, have signed a major kit deal with German Sport Kit giant, Adidas, in what is believed to be worth minimum of £750million over 10 years from the 2015-16 season.

The deal is a welcome boost for the club whose performances on the pitch last season were hugely disappointing and they can now look forward to fresh investment as the staggering figure is more than double the amount they get from American sport kit company and current partner, Nike.

It would be the first time in 23 years that the German Sport Kit organization has made Manchester United strip in 23 years, since the 1991-92 season.

A club statement on Monday read: “Manchester United PLC has reached a 10-year agreement with Adidas for a global technical sponsorship and dual branded licensing deal for a minimum guarantee of £750m, subject to certain adjustments, beginning with the 2015/2016 campaign.

The Group Chief Executive of Adidas, Herbert Hainer, who was excited about the deal, believes the partnership with United would help to strengthen the kit company’s position in the world

“We are excited to team up with Manchester United, one of the most successful and most loved football clubs globally.

“Our new partnership with Manchester United clearly underlines our leadership in football and would help us to further strengthen our position in key markets around the world.

“At the same time, this collaboration marks a milestone for us when it comes to merchandising potential. We expect total sales to reach £1.5billion during the duration of our partnership”, Hainer concluded.

It is believed Adidas would provide training and playing kit to all the club’s teams and would have the exclusive right to distribute dual-branded merchandising products worldwide.

Nike had released a statement, saying that it decided to end its association with the Old Trafford club at the end of the 2014-15 season claiming that eye-watering figures were being demanded.

It brings an end to a 13-year association that United have enjoyed with the sportswear giants after signing a long-term deal with the firm in 2002. Manchester United unveiled their new home kit for the 2014-15 season which would be the last designed by Nike and the first to bear the logo of new sponsor Chevrolet.

 

I Will Honour Contract With Arsenal– Wenger

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger has once again said he will be honouring his contract with the Gunners.

This he said during a news conference while reacting to a speculation that the 63 year old Frenchman is in a contract romance with Paris Saint Germain (PSG) that he is likely to leave the English club saying he had no intention of leaving Arsenal.

“I answered that question already, no, I respect my contracts,” he said.

“Every football game excites me and football in general excites me and the love for this club as well.

“I want to stay if I do well, and if I consider and the club consider that I do well, that’s all. I want this club to do well, and that is my basic feeling.”

Arsenal’s move from Highbury to the larger Emirates Stadium while maintaining a place in the Champions League against clubs with huge transfer budgets has proved challenging but Wenger believes the club are now in a much healthier position for the future.

“We have gone through a period that was very sensitive, the club is coming out of it now in a much stronger position financially and I believe that the club is in a very strong position for the future. For the rest my own person is less important, what is more important is the future of this club,” he said.

With Manchester United already crowned champions and Manchester City seemingly assured of second place Arsenal are vying with Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton for a place in the Champions League.

Chelsea are third in the final automatic Champions League spot with 65 points, one ahead of Arsenal who have one game less to play and three ahead of Spurs, who have the toughest run-in on paper as they visit Stamford Bridge on Wednesday in what could prove a decisive fixture.

Fourth is worth a Champions League playoff spot.

Wenger believes that the Gunners must maintain their focus to continue their good recent form.

“The most important thing is just not to lift your head, just focus on your job and continue our strong run. We have built up a strong run, put a strong run together and we want to use this belief in a very positive way,” he said.

Wenger pointed to Arsenal’s performance in the Champions League against Bayern Munich as a pivotal moment, after losing 3-1 at home they won 2-0 in Munich to lose out on the away goals rule.

“We’ve had to rebuild the team in the last two seasons, we lost some massive players and we have moved forward, for me, in the second part of the season considerably,” he said.

“We have gone out against Bayern Munich on away goal and they just thrashed Barcelona by seven goals so I have to consider that we have moved forward.”

Arsenal face a trip to already relegated Queens Park Rangers on Saturday as they chase a 16th consecutive appearance in the Champions League.

“We go game by game and every game gives you a different proposal that you have to sort out. We are highly focused on tomorrow’s game and on our performance and everybody’s really focused and wants to do well in tomorrow’s game, that’s what we of course want to achieve,” said Wenger.

It’s the end of the road for Lampard,Cole at Chelsea with Benitez as coach

Just two days into his new job as Chelsea manager, Rafa Benitez has started to break-up the Champions League-winning team by telling legends Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole that they are to leave at the end of the season.

Both players are out of contract next summer and Chelsea’s new coach said they won’t stay at Stamford Bridge beyond the end of the season.

Chelsea captain John Terry is already on his way out of Stamford Bridge with the European champions not prepared to renew his current contract.

Suarez is unstoppable – Liverpool Manager

Liverpool and Uruguay International; striker Luis Suarez has secured the backing of his manager Brendan Rodgers after he dismissed fears that the striker will be forced out of the English game by continuing criticism.

Since his leaving his former club Ajax for the English Premier League and Liverpool precisely in January 2011 the forward player has had to endure so much and with the last game played by the Reds, there’s no signs of them easing off.

Looking back, the Uruguay international was banned for eight matches last season after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, now he’s been accused of diving which from some quarters a sending-off from the game would have been the only option.

Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge expressed his concern the 25-year-old could walk away from the club because of the hard time he gets from opposition managers and supporters but Rodgers rejected that.

And according to Rodgers “I think he loves playing in English football,” said Rodgers of Suarez, who only signed a new long-term contract at the start of the season.

“I speak with Luis regularly and he loves the passion and excitement of the game over here.

“What he is a player who is mentally very strong – as you can see from his time here the amount of stick he has taken.

“It is actually a driver for him. It really motivates him and he loves being at Liverpool: he loves the city, the club and the supporters so I can’t see that (being forced out) happening.”

Suarez answered his critics, and more pertinently David Moyes with a sarcastic dive at the Everton manager’s feet after his deflected shot brought the opening goal in Sunday’s Merseyside derby draw.

Rodgers has been impressed by the way the South American has shouldered the burden of being the club’s only fit senior striker and insists it is a privilege to coach him.

“I thought he was outstanding (against Everton). He is a breath of fresh air with his enthusiasm,” added the Northern Irishman.

“He is our only fit senior striker here and he was tireless against Reading and then we had to play a strong team against Anzi (in the Europa League).

“People maybe thought the condition of the team and him in particular would waver but the condition of the group, and particularly him up front, was amazing.

“He is a wonderful talent who will always provoke comments both positive and negative but the bottom line is he is a fantastic player.

 

“He is goal scorer and his goals to games ratio this season is fantastic.

“He is really inspirational for the group because he works hard every day and he is quality at that top end of the field: he genuinely is a world-class striker.

“It is a privilege to work with a player of that quality every day.”

After three tough games Suarez is likely to be given the night off tomorrow when Rodgers’ former club Swansea visit in the Capital One Cup.

Liverpool, the defending champions, came through the last round with a 2-1 win at West Brom having fielded a team with an average age of 24 years 10 days, while seven of the 13 players used that night were under 22.

The Reds boss has admitted league performances are his priority and so the side he puts out in this competition will be shorn of first-team stars and tomorrow is no different.

But he intends to pay every respect to the club he left in the summer, insisting the close relationship he had with Swans chairman Huw Jenkins remains strong and that actually helped when he went back to buy midfielder Joe Allen.

“It improved the Allen deal as I was able to speak to Huw and ask if there was a market for Joe and he came back to me and told me there was a possibility he could be sold,” he said.

“We became close both professionally and personally there and our relationship is still strong.

“Leaving there was sad but I knew I was coming to one of the biggest clubs in the world.

“We are not in contact as much – we would have spoken every day and had many great football conversations – but there is still that respect there and an admiration for the work they do.

“I always like to leave on good terms. There is no problem there.

“But we want to get through and nothing will get in the way of that.

“No sentiment gets in the way of wanting to progress to the next round.”