With Boris Johnson imposing a strict national lockdown, will the Premier League be suspended again?
Premier League football was suspended for three months following the Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020, with social distancing being applied to slow the spread of the virus.
The league resumed in the summer of 2020, but the end of 2020 saw the highest infection rates across the UK – with a newer, more infectious strain of the virus – and hospitals are growing more overcrowded.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has now announced a new national level 4 lockdown across England. But will the Premier League and top football continue?
Will Premier League and FA Cup continue during UK Level 4 lockdown?
The Premier League and FA Cup are expected to continue during England’s Level 4 domestic lockdown, as they have been classified as ‘elite’ sport and exempted from the rules.
Johnson announced stricter lockdown measures for England on January 4, moving the country to the highest coronavirus alert level of Level 4 from the morning of January 6.
Johnson said in his briefing that it had become “clear that we need to do more” to bring the new variant of Covid-19 “under control” and to help distribute vaccines in the UK.
The lockdown is expected to remain in place at least until February.
This means the toughest lockdown restrictions since March will be enforced and schools are set to close, although elite football is still being played – albeit once again behind closed doors.
The UK’s four chief medical officers said the alert level should be moved to the highest level, warning that the NHS is severely overwhelmed.
They said: “Cases are increasing almost everywhere, in much of the country, driven by the new, more communicable variant. We are not convinced the NHS can handle a further sustained increase in cases and without further action there is a significant risk that the NHS in several areas will be overwhelmed in the next 21 days.
Although the number of positive cases for Covid-19 in the Premier League has increased in recent weeks, with several fixtures such as Manchester City vs Everton postponed due to coronavirus outbreaks in the camps, top football will not be affected.
Rigorous testing and social bubble plans have helped the Premier League insist they won’t have to suspend the season a second time.
“The Premier League have not discussed the season break and have no plans to do so,” the league said in a statement on December 30.
“The League continues to trust its Covid-19 protocols to allow matches to go as planned, and these protocols continue to enjoy the full support of the government.
“With the health of players and staff being the priority, the League also fully supports how clubs implement protocols and rules.”
However, it is not yet clear how the lockdown will affect non-elite football across England.
“I can say yes to the Premier League, I think, with authority,” Johnson told reporters in October after the second lockout was announced on whether the sport would be allowed or not.
Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has confirmed that high-performance sporting activity will not have to stop.
“The changes mean people should work from home when possible,” Dowden explained on Twitter at the time.
“But where that is not possible, travel to a workplace will be allowed – for example, this includes (but not exhaustive) elite sport played behind closed doors, film and television production, telecommunications workers . ”