Trevor Birch, EFL chief executive
EFL clubs to get coronavirus tests twice a week, funded by PFA
Players and staff at English Football League clubs will be given coronavirus tests twice a week as of 11 January to help find asymptomatic cases earlier.
They will be “fully funded” by the Professional Footballers’ Association and are being brought in to combat the virus’ new more infectious variant.
The tests will initially be sourced from the private sector.
Until this week’s mandatory tests, clubs have only had to mass test once players return from international duty.
Tests were done before the first matches of the season but have otherwise only been required when individuals display Covid-19 symptoms.
Across the EFL this season, 52 games have been postponed for coronavirus-related reasons – six in the Championship, 34 in League One and 12 in League Two.
PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor added: “We believe that this comprehensive and expansive approach to testing will help support clubs and be an important factor in maintaining fixtures and ensuring that football can continue during this challenging period.”
Paul Scally, chairman of League One club Gillingham, welcomed the move to twice-weekly testing.
“It’s taken almost 10 months, but I applaud the PFA for them coming through in funding it,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“For a League One or League Two club, paying £150 for a test per person on a twice-weekly basis just wouldn’t be affordable.
“We’ve been trying to test our players as best we can, but it is very expensive and we just don’t have the funds at the minute.”
Scally also hoped the enhanced testing and Covid-19 protocols would reassure both players and staff of the safety of football being able to continue, even behind closed doors.
“It’s absolutely essential the welfare of our players is at the forefront and they are tested regularly so that they can continue,” he said.
“Mental health in football and generally is a real issue and we have to try and play. The spirit and the will is to play and there are challenges around players and staff having to isolate when there is a positive case.
“It does disrupt the business, but that’s the way it’s been for the past 10 months. Going forward, we have to try and face those challenges as best we can and keep the players as fit as we can, both physically and mentally.”
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