Premier League’s postponed games not to be played soon

The Premier League postponed all games that were due to be played from Saturday through Monday as a mark of respect after the death of Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96.

Calling off matches in a season that has been truncated by the winter World Cup, which kicks off in Qatar on Nov. 20, means finding a place to play the games is no easy task.

Further problems are now coming into view as security demands around the funeral hit more games.

Here we take a look at the games that have been called off, other fixtures that are at risk, and possible solutions.

Which Premier League games have been postponed?

All matches in the seventh round of fixtures.

How Premier League came to a stop

AFC Bournemouth P-P Brighton & Hove Albion
Arsenal P-P Everton
Crystal Palace P-P Manchester United
Fulham P-P Chelsea
Leeds United P-P Nottingham Forest
Leicester City P-P Aston Villa
Liverpool P-P Wolverhampton Wanderers
Manchester City P-P Tottenham Hotspur
Southampton P-P Brentford
West Ham United P-P Newcastle United

What about the games in European competition?

Police resources will be required for the days leading up to the funeral on Sept. 19, and that means football matches might not be able to take place for safety reasons. Rangers’ Champions League game against Napoli, which was scheduled to be played Tuesday, has been moved to Wednesday because of the resources needed while the Queen’s coffin, which is to be flown to London on Tuesday evening, is in Scotland.

Chelsea vs. FC Salzburg is unlikely to be affected on Wednesday. The Queen’s coffin will be transferred from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall in an official procession earlier that day, but the game should be able to go ahead.

The Queen’s coffin will then lie in state at Westminster Hall in central London from Thursday through to Sunday. Hundreds of thousands of people will flock to London over these three days to pay their respects, requiring a huge police presence. Arsenal’s Europa League home game against PSV Eindhoven has therefore been postponed “due to the severe limitations on police resources and organisational issues related to the ongoing events surrounding the national mourning for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”

All other games are expected to be played as planned.

Tuesday
Liverpool vs. Ajax
Sporting CP vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Wednesday
Chelsea vs. FC Salzburg
Manchester City vs. Borussia Dortmund
Rangers vs. Napoli
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Celtic

Thursday
Arsenal P-P PSV Eindhoven
RFS vs. Hearts
Sheriff vs. Man United
Silkeborg vs. West Ham

When could Arsenal play PSV Eindhoven?

During the COVID-19 pandemic there were special conditions that would enable a team to play a postponed game after the group stage had ended, but this has now expired.

The knockout round draws for the Europa League and Europa Conference League are scheduled for Nov. 7, and Arsenal vs. Zurich could affect who is in both. A Premier League game would have to be postponed for Arsenal to play the Europa League game before the draw is due to take place. Every matchday between now and the start of November is taken by a Premier League or Europa League fixture.

When Spurs were unable to play Stade Rennais last season, they could not find a new date and the French club were awarded a 3-0 victory by default. Different circumstances are at play here, but the Gunners could have to forfeit the match if they cannot play PSV.

Weekend’s Premier League games

With Arsenal’s game on Thursday postponed, it seems inconceivable that Chelsea vs. Liverpool can now go ahead on Sunday. Tottenham vs. Leicester on Saturday must also be in serious doubt due to the size of the stadium (62,850). Brentford vs. Arsenal may still get the go-ahead on Sunday as the ground has a capacity of 17,250 and would require fewer resources.

Games outside of London could also be affected if police from other regions are required in the capital as dignitaries from around the world arrive in the U.K.

Friday
Aston Villa vs. Southampton
Nottingham Forest vs. Fulham

Saturday
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Manchester City
Brighton & Hove Albion P-P Crystal Palace*
Newcastle United vs. AFC Bournemouth
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Leicester City

Sunday
Brentford vs. Arsenal
Chelsea vs. Liverpool
Everton vs. West Ham United
Manchester United vs. Leeds United

* Brighton vs. Palace was postponed on Wednesday due to a planned train strike. That industrial action has now been canceled, but there is no news about the game being reinstated on Saturday.

The Premier League and the EFL could choose to postpone all matches as a mark of respect before the funeral, but this is unlikely.

When could the postponed games be played?

This is the big question, and there is no available date in 2022.

Every midweek after the upcoming international break through to the start of the World Cup is being used; four rounds of European games, a full set of Premier League matches and the third round of the Carabao Cup.

English football restarts on the midweek of Dec. 20 — just two days after the World Cup final — with the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, followed by three blocks of Premier League matches over the Christmas period.

This list shows how congested the schedule will be in 2023, with only three vacant midweeks built in through to the final day of the Premier League season on Sunday, May 28.

Jan. 10 – Carabao Cup QF
Jan. 17 – FA Cup R3 replays
Jan. 24 – Carabao Cup SF L1
Jan. 31 – Carabao Cup SF L2
Feb. 7 – FA Cup R4 replays
Feb. 14 – European competition knockouts
Feb. 21 – European competition knockouts
Feb. 28 – FA Cup R5
March 7 – European competition knockouts
March 14 – European competition knockouts
March 21 – International break
March 28 – International break
April 4 – vacant midweek
April 11 – European competition QF
April 18 – European competition QF
April 25 – Premier League fixtures
May 2 – vacant midweek
May 9 – European competition SF
May 16 – European competition SF
May 23 – vacant midweek

Teams who have been knocked out of the Carabao Cup or FA Cup in an earlier round could use those matchdays if necessary, though it becomes complicated if that league game is due to be shown on TV as it shouldn’t be scheduled against the broadcaster of the cup competition.

The midweeks in late January reserved for the Carabao Cup semifinals offer a solution — but there will still be four clubs ruled out, and the same issue with the TV clash applies.

Supporters at Thursday night’s European action involving Manchester United, West Ham and Arsenal paid respects to Queen Elizabeth II following her death.

So just play the games in the vacant midweeks?

It’s not quite that simple, as those three vacant midweeks are there for a reason. The clubs involved in the Carabao Cup final (Feb. 26) plus the FA Cup quarterfinals (March 18) and semifinals (April 22) will all need to rearrange the league matches scheduled for these dates, and that’s primarily what the vacant slots are for.

It’s especially a problem for teams who go far in a European competition as there is little room for manoeuvre. If a club were to reach the final of the Carabao Cup, and the semifinals of the FA Cup and the semifinals of either Europa League or the Europa Conference League, there are only just enough available dates to rearrange the three league matches from the dates outlined above. Add in any more rearranged games, and it’s a struggle to find a slot.

It’s slightly different for a team that reaches the Champions League final, as Liverpool did last season when also reaching the finals of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup. Clubs in the UCL have two extra spare midweeks during the round of 16, which Liverpool used to play Leeds United and Arsenal, thus avoiding added congestion further into a season which had already been affected by COVID-19 postponements.

The Premier League has to look at these dates and take into account the worst-case scenario.

What about the European midweeks?

There is a Memorandum Of Understanding between the leagues and UEFA that matches won’t be played at the same time as Champions League matches, if at all possible. In 2013, UEFA fined the Premier League £1.1m for doing so, deducting funds from solidarity payments. This has been relaxed in recent years, though leagues are still advised to avoid a clash if possible.

Last week, Lorient played Lyon in Ligue 1 in a game postponed from the beginning of the season. It was scheduled on a Thursday to avoid a clash with the UCL, kicking off early at 7 p.m. local time so it would only be on at the same time as the early set of European matches.

So the Premier League could use the European midweeks if it feels there is no other place to put the games, and that applies to 13 of the 20 Premier League teams.

Of course, that could be no good to the other seven teams who are in Europe: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United.

It’s those clubs who pose the problems for the schedulers — and four of them play in London next weekend and could have another game called off. They are most likely to go far in both domestic cups, too.

But at the same time, it presents a solution, of sorts.

As mentioned previously, teams who go through in the Champions League will have two extra midweeks in February and March, as the round of 16 is spread across four midweeks and teams will play on only two of them.

It’s a similar story for teams who win their Europa League or Europa Conference League group. They will go straight through to the round of 16, and not play in the two European dates in February.

However, any of the seven clubs who finish third in the Champions League, second or third in the Europa League, or second in the Europa Conference League will have to play two games in the first knockout round in February and two games in the round of 16 in March. They would be in danger of running out of dates.

If Chelsea were to finish third in their Champions League group, they would potentially have no spare date as they might have to play both dates in February and March. The same goes for Arsenal if they are the runners-up in their Europa League group.

So what’s would be the solution?

It’s really all about the six postponed games involving those teams in Europe.

Arsenal vs. Everton
Crystal Palace vs. Manchester United
Fulham vs. Chelsea
Liverpool vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur
West Ham United vs. Newcastle United

The Premier League will probably hope to fit everything in on the vacant midweeks, which won’t be a problem as long as clubs avoid the Europa League and Europa Conference League knockout round in February.

But as more games get postponed, the trickier it gets.

If it’s decided there needs to be some creative thinking — especially if any of next weekend’s matches have to be postponed for security reasons — the obvious solution is to cancel FA Cup replays in the third and fourth rounds once again. This happened in each of the last two seasons due to congestion caused by COVID-19 postponements and would open up the two extra midweeks required to prevent any issues further down the line. However, right now that seems unnecessary.

If FA Cup replays stay in place, it’s unlikely, though not impossible, those dates could be used for rearranged games because the availability of teams would only be known on short notice.

There’s no chance the Carabao Cup could be cancelled, but there could be pressure to make the semifinals one-legged to open up a midweek. Again, this is an unlikely outcome.

Swapping around the FA Cup final (June 3) and the last day of the Premier League (May 28) would add an extra midweek on May 30 — though the Europa League final is being played on the Wednesday of that week. There would also be additional logistical issues, as Wembley is booked for the EFL playoffs on the weekend of May 27-29, making this solution very unlikely, too.

Can the season be extended?

No. After the FA Cup final on June 3, the Champions League final is scheduled for June 10 and immediately afterward there’s an international block reserved for Euro 2024 qualifying matches.

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