Premier League clubs are told they MUST field a squad for FA Cup third round matches this weekend
EXCLUSIVE: Premier League clubs are told they MUST line up a squad for the FA Cup third round games this weekend despite the Covid chaos plaguing English football – and an increase in positive cases could see the best teams rely on academy players
- The FA have written to Premier League clubs telling them they need to field a squad
- This weekend, all 20 Premier League clubs will take part in the FA Cup third round
- An increase in Covid cases has seen many clubs affected, top players missing
- The FA are desperate to continue the games, even if that means teams full of academy stars
Premier League clubs have been told they have to field a squad for the FA Cup third round matches this weekend despite the wave of Covid hitting English football.
In a note sent to the 20 clubs on Wednesday, the clubs were told they did indeed have to fill in their matches – even if that means fielding a squad full of academy players – which ultimately means there won’t be series of postponements this weekend.
The national schedule has been decimated by a series of postponements in recent weeks due to the increase in Covid cases among players and staff and the increase in the number of injuries.
Premier League clubs have been hit by a huge increase in positive coronavirus cases this week
In the Premier League, a match can be postponed if a club can prove that it does not have 13 outfielders plus an available goalkeeper from its senior team and a list of ‘sufficiently experienced under-21s’.
A sufficiently experienced U21 is a player who has participated, as a starting or replacing, for a club in a first-team competition this season.
However, the Premier League has now confirmed to clubs that, contrary to their own rules, this season’s FA Cup will not apply any experience criteria to young players.
Instead, clubs will be required to nominate any player on their books to meet the 14-player threshold required for the match to go ahead.
In its guidelines sent to the teams yesterday, the Premier League also confirmed that any youngster who plays or is an unused substitute for this weekend’s cup matches will be exempt from being considered a “sufficiently experienced U21 player” for them. high level matches.
The correspondence, seen by Sportsmail, read: “We believe that this exception is justified given the possible consequences of the position of the FA, with regard to a competition which (for our clubs) has not yet started.
Manchester City and manager Pep Guardiola are one of the hardest hit teams ahead of the FA Cup third round games this weekend. They face Swindon on Friday night
“We also believe this is an approach that helps improve the team’s availability during a crowded January game schedule and best protects the balance between maintaining the integrity of the League and the guarantee that the matches are fulfilled. “
The FA’s player availability rule opens up the possibility for top clubs to flood their teams on match day for this weekend’s games with academy players to give their senior stars a rest. .
This is a scenario the FA wants to avoid as they seek to protect the integrity of the competition and its status as the most famous national cup tournament in the world.
But there is also an understanding within the governing body that the prospect of a number of postponements this weekend will only add to the problem of game congestion as the final months of the season approach. given the number of matches already postponed. .
In extreme circumstances, where a club’s playing staff have been completely wiped out by Covid and injury, the FA would consider a request to postpone a match.
Premier League managers like Tottenham’s Antonio Conte (center) may be forced to rely on academy players to complete this weekend’s fixtures
An FA spokesperson confirmed to Sportsmail: âClubs participating in the UAE 2021/22 FA Cup are expected to participate in matches as currently scheduled.
“However, if a club does not have the sufficient number of eligible players available due to COVID-19, this should be reported to the FA as soon as possible and returned to the Professional Game Board for review.
“Replays have been removed from the third and fourth rounds of the UAE 2021/22 FA Cup to alleviate the possibility of match congestion after several postponements in recent weeks and the lingering uncertainty ahead due to COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, under new government and Premier League guidelines, the FA has effectively abandoned the use of PCR testing, relying heavily on the use of lateral flow testing instead.