Stoke City to introduce twice-weekly tests as Covid sweeps through EFL


Twice-weekly Covid-19 testing will be introduced at all 72 EFL clubs, funded by the PFA, from next week.

A rise in the amount of clubs impacted by the virus following the discovery of a more contagious strain means the EFL has opted to bring back mandatory testing for players and staff.

Clubs were tested this week in line with EFL regulations but, for many players and staff, it was the first time they had taken a test since November – although strict protocols have been in place to mitigate the spread.

Some clubs including Stoke City already face two tests this week, with the FA supplying mandatory tests for this weekend’s FA Cup ties.

A large number of EFL clubs have been impacted by the virus so far this season, with Derby County’s entire first-team staff unable to play against Chorley in the FA Cup this weekend due to an outbreak of the virus.

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In League One, Accrington Stanley have played just 16 times so far this season, having six games in hand on Burton Albion, who have played the most times in the division, due to Covid-19 and weather postponements.

The PFA are set to provide the funding for the tests, which will be obtained from the private sector.

EFL chief executive Trevor Birch said: “We have repeatedly maintained that adhering to the stringent protocols implemented during the re-start last summer and then across all clubs since the beginning of the season was going to be our best chance of beating the virus and to keep playing matches.

“Only last week we took the decision to enhance these to further minimise risk, though with the new strain of the virus taking hold across parts of the country, it is now clear from our discussions with our medical advisers and public health officials that additional testing, operated in conjunction with strict protocols, may prove beneficial in the immediate short-term.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the PFA for their support in helping us to finalise a position on testing across all three divisions on a twice-weekly basis. We will continue to review the situation and make any adjustments or changes as circumstances dictate with the health and well-being of our players and club staff the overwhelming priority.”

Clubs will use lateral flow tests, which are not as accurate as the more intrusive PCR tests but are cheaper, easier to administer and produce results more quickly.

The £4,000 cost of PCR tests per round had been prohibitive further down the leagues but clubs have been keen to introduce new measures as elite sport got the green light to continue.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said: “In the light of the current increase in Covid-19 cases and the resulting further tightening of government regulations, the PFA and the EFL have agreed enhanced measures to help protect players, staff and their families.

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“Football has provided temporary relief for many fans during the lockdown. PFA members, alongside millions of people, have worked hard and played a positive role throughout the pandemic.

“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.”





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