The Premier League is facing its worst fixture backlog since the pandemic, with the weekend’s biggest matches at Manchester United and Chelsea now wiped out ahead of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.
Extra security required at Old Trafford for the visit of Leeds – a fixture with a history of fierce supporter rivalry – sealed the match’s fate, even though the state funeral the following day falls under a different police force.Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge encounter with Liverpool was also called off, along with Brighton’s fixture against Crystal Palace, which was initially postponed due to the now-abandoned rail strike.
The three clubs join Arsenal – whose Europa League match against PSV was also postponed – in losing their second scheduled match in a week. Sources close to talks said the postponements were all made on the basis of security assessments.
The seven top-flight fixtures that survive are deemed less of a burden for overstretched police forces.However, after last weekend was completely wiped out, the Premier League is facing a major headache to rearrange the outstanding fixtures.
The calendar was already under huge pressure due to the winter World Cup, and the postponed games will now have to be slotted in after January.
Following extensive consultation with clubs, police, local safety advisory groups and other relevant authorities, there was no other option but to postpone the three fixtures,” the Premier League announced.
The Champions League game between Rangers and Napoli, now playing tomorrow, had already been postponed by 24 hours, but the other European fixtures go ahead.Despite both matches being the responsibility of Scotland Yard policing, Chelsea and Red Bull Salzburg was deemed a less likely flashpoint than Arsenal versus PSV.
England’s top tier was among sports on a call with the UK government yesterday to finalise plans after officials set out formal arrangements for the public to pay their respects to the late Queen while her coffin lies in state.
UEFA has told the English and Scottish teams playing in Europe that pre-match silences and black armbands are permitted, but not national anthems.
The late Queen’s coffin will be flown to London tonight. Scotland Yard had signalled on Saturday it would find a way to cope if football went ahead on the eve of the huge policing operation for the funeral.However, after police told football the onus was on the sport to decide whether fixtures would be too much of a burden, the League cancelled one of three London fixtures this weekend.Given their backlog, Arsenal will be particularly relieved their visit to Brentford goes ahead.
That fixture has been brought forward two hours to reduce the amount of pre-match drinking.Everton’s game against West Ham was moved by 15 minutes to accommodate the new Sky Sports schedule.
The postponement of the Champions League game between Rangers and Napoli prompted UEFA to announce that away fans would not be permitted into Ibrox tomorrow as it urged them not to travel to Glasgow.
It also implemented a ban on Rangers supporters attending the return fixture next month “as a matter of sporting fairness