English Football League (EFL) have confirmed that 2021-22 festive fixture schedule will proceed as normal, despite increasing Coronavirus outbreaks amongst clubs.
This week’s four Carabao Cup Quarter-Finals across 21-22 December will go ahead as scheduled as long as safety is guaranteed and ‘set squad criteria’ can be fulfilled by all eight clubs.
Championship, League One and League Two fixtures across 26-27, 29-30 December 2021 and 1-3 January 2022 are also scheduled to proceed as planned, providing that clubs are able to field teams depending on various Coronavirus outbreaks within individual squads.
EFL officials though confirmed that ‘future postponements’ are possible and will be navigated where positive cases are identified at individual clubs, although there is thought to be ‘optimism’ of minimal disruption following the implementation of RED protocols, regular testing and vaccinations.
Speaking on this decision to continue without a circuit-breaker lockdown, EFL Chief Executive, Trevor Birch insisted that the “two priorities” of the EFL is to ensure welfare and safety of all clubs and ensure fixtures continue where possible to do so.
With around 100 fixtures in total scheduled to be held between Boxing Day and Bank Holiday Monday 3 January 2022, EFL bosses have vowed to “continue to work with clubs, authorities and other agencies” to monitor the case rate and react accordingly if there is further outbreaks.
Birch also is confident that with “club mitigation measures” in place plus adoption of booster vaccinations and Coronavirus certification for crowds, “many fans will continue to feel confident in attending matches over the Christmas period and we look forward to welcoming them.”
This decision comes after Premier League clubs also elected to continue with their festive fixture programme, amidst concerns from various managers especially with majority of clubs playing within 48 hours across matchweeks 19 and 20.
Selected EFL festive highlights include Chris Wilder’s return to Bramall Lane on New Year’s Day as Sheffield United host Middlesbrough in Championship, plus a Boxing Day relegation showdown in League Two as Oldham host Scunthorpe.