Southampton complain to Premier League after Covid cases and injuries force Newcastle postponement

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Southampton are furious at the late postponement of Sunday’s scheduled match against Newcastle United and have complained in talks with the Premier League over a lack of transparency when fixtures are suddenly called off.

Although league rules state that matches can be rearranged if clubs have fewer than 14 available players due to injuries and Covid-19 cases, there is a growing sense that the sheer number of postponements is now threatening the integrity of the competition.

There is also a feeling that there is limited incentive for those clubs who have been willing to promote academy players when there is an injury crisis, have high vaccination rates among their players (Southampton are at 99 per cent) and have been stringent in taking Covid-19 precautions all season.

Another source at a different Premier League club said that “we would all like far more transparency on the future reasons for each postponement”. Newcastle lost key forwards Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Allan Saint-Maximin to injury against Manchester United on Monday and Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl was already unhappy that their midweek match against Everton was postponed.

A Newcastle statement said that they had submitted separate requests to the Premier League board which were accepted and that “several players and staff” had “succumbed to illness and injury over the festive period”. They also said that “the club will not be naming individuals who have contracted Covid-19 or their vaccination status”.

Southampton’s call, however, is not for individual names but more detail on the breakdown of Covid case numbers of staff and players, as well as the wider injuries within the squad, when any Premier League match is postponed.

Hasenhuttl believes that they were operating to different rules when they were struck by numerous injuries during the pandemic last season and fielded a hugely inexperienced squad in losing 9-0 to Manchester United. “There were times where we had nine out – and we played academy players,” said Hasenhuttl. 

“Injuries are not Covid cases. They (Newcastle) had seven or eight players on the bench during their last game. They should still have thirteen players plus one (goalkeeper). This is the message from the Premier League.”

In announcing the postponement, which is the top-flight’s 18th this season, the Premier League said that “the club does not have the required number of players available for the match (13 outfield players and one goalkeeper), due to Covid-19 cases and injuries”. There was no further detail, however, on the nature of the injuries and the exact numbers of Covid-19 cases within the playing squad.

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