With the traditionally heavy English and Scottish “festive” schedules set to run through the holidays, the current COVID surge across Europe is causing a growing list of cancelations and postponements for a number of Yanks in the two countries
A large number of games across Europe have been either canceled or postponed in recent weeks due to a rising number of COVID cases amongst players and backroom staff. While most leagues on the continent played their final games of 2021 over the last week and will return to action in early-2022, England and Scotland are the notable exceptions, with the traditional rapid-fire glut of games beginning on December 26, Boxing Day, already putting a strain on the teams and players.
Cancelations in England Amid Player-Welfare Outcry
The situation in England has increasingly pitted teams, most vocally represented by their players and coaches, against the league, as a battle of player well-being versus league revenue. The Premier League and EFL have already announced a number of resulting postponements for both the Boxing Day round of games as well as those in the days leading up to the New Year – 27 in total with three of those being in the Premier League – however it is almost certain that more games will be called off in the coming hours and days as cases continue to spread like wildfire amongst the public and teams alike.
As of now, in England only two games involving Americans expected or likely to play have been called off in the top four leagues, but with close to 48 hours until the first kickoffs, this list will likely grow.
English Boxing Day postponements (so far)
Fulham (Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson) – Birmingham City
Preston North End (Matthew Olosunde) – Sheffield United
Another game involving several Americans to keep an eye on is Norwich versus Arsenal on December 26. Norwich hasn’t played since Dec. 14 due to their prior game against West Ham being postponed, but are now set to play twice within 48 hours, with a visit to Crystal Palace two days after the Arsenal game. Canaries Manager Dean Smith has publicly expressed incredulity that the two upcoming games are still expected to go on, even as his team has reported several fresh cases in recent days.
Exact new dates for the postponed games have yet to be decided, however it will be a complicated issue in an already-packed schedule.
Already, replays for the upcoming third- and fourth-round games of the FA Cup – drawn games of earlier rounds are traditionally replayed instead of going into overtime/penalties – were preemptively canceled due to the expected fixture backlog.
With players and coaches overwhelmingly critical not only of the traditionally, if not recklessly busy schedule, but also of the league’s current reticence to call off games even for heavily-stricken teams, there have been suggestions in the national media of possible player strikes. While still viewed as an unlikely scenario, prominent league figures such as Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola have made statements seemingly supportive of such a move, if players choose to take it.
Pre-emptive Postponement of Scottish Premiership Games
In Scotland, the Scottish Premiership was set to have three more rounds of games, set to take place on December 26, 29 and January 2-3, before heading into their short winter break. However, the league and clubs opted to get ahead of the situation, with 10 out of 12 Premiership clubs voting to start the winter break immediately following the upcoming Boxing Day games.
The games originally due to take place on Dec. 29 and Jan. 2-3 have been delayed until after the league’s winter break, with new dates of Jan. 17-18 and Feb. 1-2, respectively. This will effectively give teams three weeks to keep the situation from spiralling out of control, limit contact between their players and opposing teams, and make necessary preparations for what could be a difficult period during late-January and February.
For the trio of Americans plying their trade in the Scottish Premiership, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Christian Ramirez and Ian Harkes, the postponed games include several marquee matchups.
For Carter-Vickers, this will delay his first-ever Old Firm derby against Celtic’s firce rivals Rangers by a few weeks, to Wednesday, February 2. Additionally, the Dundee derby, featuring United’s Harkes, will now take place on Tuesday, February 1. The Premiership’s second-leading scorer Ramirez will see his team Aberdeen host Rangers on Tuesday, January 18.
Scottish Premiership postponements
(Delayed from Dec. 29 to Jan. 17-18)
Celtic (Cameron Carter-Vickers) – Hibernian
Aberdeen (Christian Ramirez) – Rangers
Dundee United (Ian Harkes) – St. Mirren
(Delayed from Jan. 2-3 to Feb. 1-2)
Dundee – Dundee United
Ross County – Aberdeen
Celtic – Rangers