A Premier League club has been forced to pay for their lower league Carabao Cup opponents to be tested for Covid-19 this week as they fear being infected after the EFL removed the mandatory protocol for teams to be screened on a weekly basis.
Sportsmail can reveal that players in the Championship will now only be tested after international breaks this side of Christmas following new guidance from the EFL. The same applies to clubs in League One and Two.
And top-flight sources say they are deeply concerned about meeting EFL teams in cup competitions given the increased risk of their players and staff being exposed to coronavirus.
A Premier League club will be forced to pay for its Carabao Cup opponent’s coronavirus tests
Testing in the EFL is now at the discretion of individual clubs and is only mandatory when a person displays symptoms.
However, with each test costing between £100 and £150, the weekly bill can be as much as £30,000 if 100 employees are checked prior to two matches.
Sportsmail has spoken to several top Championship clubs who say they are no longer testing and will only do so when required by the EFL.
The last mandatory tests were on Friday before the start of the new season but players and staff will now go untested until after October’s international matches, before which there are two more rounds of the Carabao Cup.
Coronavirus testing in the EFL is only mandatory when a player is displaying symptoms
‘We just can’t afford it,’ said one club source. ‘It was not sustainable to be paying anywhere between £10,000 and £30,000 each week.
‘With no supporters in the ground there are a lot of clubs facing financial oblivion. All we can do is make our environment as safe as possible.
‘Of course, we can’t control what players do outside of the training ground and matchday bubble, and that will always be a risk. But, at the moment, there is no alternative.’
However, another source within the game, who made Sportsmail aware of the change in protocol, is concerned about the consequences.
‘This is a recipe for disaster,’ they said. ‘When you think how many players who have tested positive have not shown any obvious symptoms, it could get out of control very quickly.
A number of Football League clubs are struggling to pay for regular coronavirus testing
‘Players and staff will have to show symptoms before they are tested or forced to self-isolate, and by then it could be too late.
‘This could impact on fixtures being postponed and the integrity of the competition. It is going to get very complicated when Premier League clubs face EFL clubs and players have not been tested for the best part of a month or more. Who knows where that could end.
‘But, more importantly, this is people’s health. It is no longer minimising the risk of transmission, and that is the biggest concern.’
The EFL tested players and club staff on a weekly basis when the Championship returned to conclude their season during the summer.
The Premier League tested twice weekly during the same period but have now reduced to that to one per week.
The cost for tests for staff and players can be anywhere between £10-30,000 per game
Like the Championship, clubs in League One and League Two are only testing at their own discretion. The cost of all tests in the EFL is met by the clubs.
The decision to adapt the protocols came after an assessment of the current Covid situation in the UK and the high number of negative tests among EFL clubs during pre-season.
The EFL have told clubs that the most important focus is the wider hygiene protocols at their stadiums and training grounds. However, some clubs are concerned that others are not adhering to those guidelines as strictly as others.
We have been told that Premier League clubs are now contacting lower-league opponents in advance of cup fixtures – including the EFL Trophy involving their Under-23s teams – to determine what risk there is to their players and staff and come to arrangement over testing.
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