'I do worry for them' - Sky Sports pundits express concern for EFL clubs amid new Covid testing plans
Sky Sports pundits Dean Ashton and Darren Bent have both expressed their concerns about whether or not the EFL will be able to properly complete its current campaign if fixtures continue to be affected by Covid-related postponements.
The Football League has already had to rearrange 50 matches across its three divisions this season – a vast increase on the Premier League’s comparative total of four games.
In response to a recent spate of postponements, the decision has been taken to provide EFL clubs with twice weekly testing. The measure will bring the lower leagues in line with the top flight, who have been testing players regularly since the return of professional football last year.
But Ashton and Bent have both voiced their concerns that more testing, while necessary, could lead to more matches being called off, and more logistical issues for sides further down the line.
Speaking on Sky Sports News’ Football Show, the former said: “I think many of the EFL owners were very vocal in terms of the expense of having testing, and that’s why the Premier League took the lead and were able to did it right from the start while the EFL clubs have had to wait.
"The worry is, because 50 games have already gone by the wayside, now that the testing has come into play this week, I do worry just how many positive tests there are going to be and how that’s going to affect the EFL.
"I think the Premier League will continue regardless, I really do. I think they’ll be able to control it, but the EFL, I do worry for them.”
Bent added: “You play a lot of games in the Championship anyway. It can be relentless at times, but to catch up on 50 games, I don't quite know how they're going to be able to do that.
"That’s the only really concern. If there are so many more positive cases, and they have to postpone more games and more games, then eventually, there’s not enough time to keep postponing games and catching them up. There’s not enough days in the week, unfortunately.
"What do they do then? Then we’re back to square one, with the owners needing money. I can fully understand clubs struggling because there’s no fans coming in the gates, then they’re having to give money out for testing.
"It's such a complex situation. You just hope with the tests they’re doing this week that there isn’t so many positive tests that they have to postpone more games.”
Ashton replied: “Certain teams are missing a lot of games and are going to have to catch up way more than others.
"It literally depends on whether you as a club have had an outbreak, or the teams you’re due to play at certain times have had an outbreak.
"Then you start to question the integrity if you’ve got one or two teams that have got an extra five or six games to play. How does that really sit in terms of the back end of the season?
"These are real difficult times for the EFL, and I think this week and next week will really bring to the forefront as to exactly where the EFL are.”