EFL to begin regular virus testing with league braced for further positive cases as all 72 clubs are swabbed

Ipswich Town physio Matt Byard and manager Paul Lambert have backed plans for a football 'circuit breaker' while the EFL...

Ipswich Town physio Matt Byard and manager Paul Lambert have backed plans for a football 'circuit breaker' while the EFL are set to introduce regular testing - Credit: Steve Waller/Pagepix

The EFL are said to have agreed to introduce mandatory twice-weekly testing for players to try and help combat the rising level of coronavirus cases. 

Clubs in the Championship and League One and Two have been tested sporadically since returning to action in September, with Ipswich manager Paul Lambert admitting he and his players have been swabbed ‘seven or eight times’ during a period where clubs in the Premier League have been tested twice weekly.  

A rise in positive cases has seen fixture lists decimated in the EFL over the Christmas period, with League One hit especially hard with half of all fixtures postponed during the final matchday of 2020 and the first of 2021.  

Ipswich have had their last four games postponed due to 11 positive cases in the Town camp, including Lambert and general manager Lee O’Neill, and also virus issues at scheduled opponents Peterborough and Fleetwood. 

The spike in cases led Town physio Matt Byard to call for an EFL-wide ‘circuit breaker’ to try and get things back under control, a move also backed by Lambert, but the EFL have resisted calls and are now reported to have agreed to regular testing for the 72 clubs outside the Premier League. 

The contentious issue has always been who should pay for the testing, with one round thought to cost in the region of £4,000, making a weekly bill of £8,000 prohibitive for many clubs at a time when the vast majority of their income streams have been lost. 

It’s been reported, though, that testing could be taken from ‘central funds’ meaning the cost could be kept away from individual clubs. 

Every player in the EFL will be tested during the early part of this week, with Town players due to be tested today, during what is a long-planned period of testing put in place at the end of what was supposed to be a busy festive period. This round of testing is now likely to be the start of a more-strict regime as the EFL bid to avoid the possibility of once again ending seasons prematurely due to the rising virus cases. 

As well as Ipswich, Peterborough and Fleetwood - Doncaster, Rochdale, Portsmouth, Hull, Wigan and Lincoln have all been hit by positive tests in recent days. 

It’s highly likely the round of testing planned for early this week will bring further positive tests and possibly more disruption to the League One fixture list. 

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As things stand, Town are due to face Swindon Town in a televised clash on Saturday evening (5.30pm) in what will be their first game in 25 days following the 2-1 victory over Burton Albion on December 15.

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