15 fit players enough for teams when EPL resumes in pandemic

premier-league-trophy

In this Sunday, May 6, 2018 photo, the English Premier League trophy sits on the pitch prior to a match between Manchester City and Huddersfield Town at Etihad stadium in Manchester, England. (Rui Vieira/AP)

MANCHESTER, England — Premier League clubs with only 15 fit players are still likely to have to play matches if the season resumes as planned next month during the coronavirus pandemic.

West Ham vice chair Karren Brady has disclosed new details of Thursday’s conference call of clubs when they agreed to restart the season on June 17, pending government approval.

The season was suspended in March after positive COVID-19 cases at Arsenal and Chelsea forced the squads into self-isolation.

Brady said the latest virtual meeting of club executives featured a long discussion about “what constitutes having a team fit enough to compete in the games left to play.”

Most teams, including West Ham, have nine games remaining.

“There are obvious and genuine concerns about what happens to your match results if your club has a number of players testing positive for coronavirus, or is in self-isolation, and as a result you simply cannot field your usual or strongest starting XI,” Brady wrote in a column in Saturday’s editions of “The Sun” newspaper.

“Well, as long as you have 15 fit players (including one goalkeeper) made up from either your 25-man squad list or from your under-21s you will be deemed to have a team fit enough to fulfil the fixture.”

Clubs will discuss on another call on Thursday what to do if teams don’t have 15 fit players or if the season is still curtailed, based on never resuming or being suspended again due to a new spike in COVID-19 cases in England.

“The Premier League are recommending a points-per-game formula to decide the award of places,” Brady said. “This is a straightforward model whereby a team’s number of points is simply divided by the number of matches they have played.

“The resulting figure is the average number of points each team has earned in each match of the season so far. And on this calculation three teams will be relegated — what a heartbreaking end to the most unfortunate season in history.”

West Ham is two places above the relegation zone but only because the east London club has a better goal difference than Bournemouth and Watford.

“Myself and a number of other clubs are reluctant to decide a future Premier League shareholder’s fate by a formula rather than a football match,” Brady said.

The Premier League season is now due to end on the weekend of July 25-26, more than two months after originally scheduled.

Though the COVID-19 deaths per day have fallen in Britain since the peak in April, another 324 were still reported on Friday by the government, bringing the known death toll in all settings including hospitals and care homes to 38,161.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.