Sports

FA Cup ties in doubt as COVID-19 numbers rise


Southampton‘s FA Cup clash against Shrewsbury Town on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, live on ESPN+) is at risk of becoming the first round three tie to be postponed due to COVID-19 after the EFL League One club confirmed several positive tests among its playing staff.

Championship club Derby County, managed by former Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney, are facing the prospect of having to play their tie against National League North team Chorley *Saturday at 7.15 a.m. ET, live on ESPN+) with several youth-team players after also being hit by an unspecified number of positive cases among their first-team squad.

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Sources have told ESPN, though, that Shrewsbury’s situation is causing most concern ahead of this weekend’s third round due to the size of the COVID-19 outbreak at the club.

Having been contacted by Shrewsbury, the English FA is now liaising with the Professional Game Board in an attempt to resolve the situation and discover whether it is possible to reschedule the Southampton tie.

Due to the impact of the pandemic on the game at all levels this season, the FA has made it clear to all competing clubs that ties must go ahead if they can field a minimum of 14 fit players.

But with the fixture schedule under strain because of the delayed start to the season and increasing number of COVID-19-related postponements, clubs have also been warned they risk forfeiting ties if it proves impossible to reschedule before the next round.

This season’s fourth round is due to take place on Jan. 23 — giving clubs just two weeks to find a new date for any postponed ties. With a full round of Premier League games on the midweek commencing Jan. 18, ties involving top-flight clubs are unlikely to be rescheduled if they cannot be played at the first attempt.

The FA is providing financial assistance for all non-Premier League clubs competing in the third round to undergo testing this week. EFL clubs have not been required to test this season, prompting fears of widespread disruption in the FA Cup as a result of testing taking place.

Meanwhile, Shrewsbury have confirmed that several members of their squad will now self-isolate following the positive test results.

A club statement said: “Shrewsbury Town Football Club can confirm several members of the Town squad and first team staff have tested positive for COVID-19. In accordance with EFL and Government guidelines, all concerned individuals will now enter into a period of self-isolation.

“The health and safety of all staff members at Shrewsbury Town Football Club remains paramount and the club continually takes all necessary steps to protect all where possible. The club have informed Shropshire Public Health, EFL, and the FA of the current situation and we will continue discussions with the relevant football authorities.

“The club will be making no further comment at this time and ask that each individual involved has their privacy respected. Necessary updates will be provided in due course.”



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