'Test and get on with it' - Ashton glad football will continue over Christmas

Mark Ashton first day 8

Ipswich Town chief executive Mark Ashton is against the idea of a Covid 'firebreaker' for football - Credit: Ross Halls

Ipswich Town chief executive Mark Ashton backs the EFL's view that football can continue over the festive period.

A total of 25 Premier League and Football League games were postponed over the weekend as the Omicron variant of Covid continues to spread at a rapid rate.

However, the EFL has announced this afternoon that 'for now the view remains that we can continue to deliver games safely where clubs have sufficient healthy personnel in place, on and off the pitch' and that 'mass adoption of booster jabs hopefully means fans will continue to feel confident in attending matches'.

Town, who played in front of a Portman Road crowd of 29,005 on Saturday, are in action at Gillingham on Boxing Day and then have home games against Wycombe (Dec 29) and Lincoln (Jan 1).

Gillingham closed their stadium and facilities last Thursday after a number of positive virus tests among staff and players. They postponed their weekend game against Crewe, but manager Steve Evans has said he hopes Sunday's game against the Blues goes ahead as planned.

At lunchtime, Ashton said: “We have a call with the EFL tomorrow. My personal position is that we play on, because if we have a circuit breaker now I don’t think there’s a set period of time where we could guarantee when we could return. 


“I sat on the EFL board for three years during the first wave of the pandemic when we stopped playing. That was the right thing to do, but it wasn’t so easy to get everyone started again and that brought a whole host of new challenges. 

“So my own position is that we test and we get on with it. I know that’s going to be difficult and challenging, but I don’t see the football calendar easing up. 

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“My preference is if we test and we have enough players then we probably have to play."

Last Thursday, the EFL announced that new 'enhanced training ground protocols and increased testing' had been put in place and that clubs will be expected to fulfil fixtures where it has 14 players available (including a goalkeeper available from the registered squad list, Under-21 players not on the squad list but who have played one league match, or any other contracted player not on the squad list but otherwise would have been eligible to play).

Last week the Football League revealed that a quarter of players at its member clubs 'do not intend to get a vaccine' against Covid-19 and that, as of last month, 31% of players had not received a first dose.

Recent interim manager John McGreal said he did know how many of the Ipswich Town squad were vaccinated when asked following Saturday's 1-1 draw with Sunderland.

In a new statement released this afternoon, the EFL said: "While the league acknowledges there will likely be future postponements to navigate where Covid-19 cases are identified, there is optimism that disruption can be minimised following implementation of RED protocols, a daily testing regime and ongoing vaccination rollout.

"For now the view remains that we can continue to deliver games safely where clubs have sufficient healthy personnel in place, on and off the pitch.

“With club mitigation measures, the mass adoption of booster jabs and Covid certification now required for larger crowds, we are sure many fans will continue to feel confident in attending matches over the Christmas period and we look forward to welcoming them.”