Gary Neville has called for the Premier League to take a tougher stance on what warrants a postponement after they called off the North London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal
Gary Neville has demanded the Premier League stops postponing games save for the most “exceptional” circumstances after Tottenham Hotspur versus Arsenal became the latest casualty on the fixture list.
The top-flight’s board called off Sunday evening’s North London derby on Saturday, just over 24 hours before the scheduled kick-off at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
It is the latest match which requires rescheduling after the Omicron variant wreaked havoc with the festive schedule.
In their statement confirming the game will not be played this weekend, the Premier League said: “With Arsenal having fewer than the required number of players available for the match (13 outfield players and one goalkeeper), the Board accepted the club’s application.”
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The decision has not been well-received universally, however, with Neville suspecting the postponement was down to injuries and AFCON participation rather than Covid-19.
Neville reiterated his stance once the decision was confirmed and urged top-flight chiefs to “draw a line in the sand” by taking a tougher stance on postponements.
“Game off. What started out as postponements due to a pandemic has now become about clubs not having their best team,” Neville tweeted.
“The Premier League must stop this now, draw a line in the sand and say all games go ahead unless you have an exceptional amount of CV (coronavirus) cases. It’s wrong.”
Under current rules, clubs have grounds for a postponement if they cannot field 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper either from their squad list or using “appropriately-experienced” Under-21 players.
There is plenty of uncertainty surrounding which youth players qualify as “appropriately-experienced” in the eyes of the Premier League.
Further, Neville pointed out Arsenal allowed two players to depart on loan shortly before applying for postponement, while their squad was left further depleted after Granit Xhaka’s red card against Liverpool on Thursday.
“We can’t be calling fixtures off. If it was purely down to Covid and extraordinary circumstances where there were 10 or 15 players out [it would be acceptable].
“But, we’re now talking about teams in the last few weeks where there’s no doubt they’ve been calling games off whether they think they’ve got the best squad or best team to win a game.”