Covid and injuries at Everton have forced the Premier League into a third Boxing Day postponement as the packed football schedule descended into more chaos on Christmas Eve.
Everton were due to travel to Turf Moor to play at 3pm on Sunday, but have now told the league they have an “insufficient number of players available” after an assessment of the squad.
For Burnley, the cancellation is a major setback, as they were already facing a backlog after their match against Aston Villa was called off with three hours to spare. By their next match against Manchester United on Dec 30, they will not have played for 18 days.
The league had already apologised to fans after outbreaks at Leeds United and Watford caused two previous postponements. BT Sport had been forced to change its plans and will now show Tottenham against Crystal Palace, which remains at 3pm.
On Friday, Everton referred fans to a Premier League statement to explain the cancellation of their fixture. “The board this morning was able to make its decision in advance of Boxing Day to give clarity to clubs and their fans,” the league said.
“We apologise for the inconvenience and disruption caused to those supporters’ festive plans. The league is aware that the decisions this week to postpone three matches on Boxing Day will disappoint supporters, and understands their frustrations at a special time of year when fans look forward to attending and watching football games.”
Players and managers have repeatedly complained in recent days over the packed Christmas schedule taking place while Covid cases soar. However, Antonio Conte has described a Premier League managers’ crisis meeting as a waste of time, saying it was like talking to a “wall”.
Conte was clearly unhappy with how the meeting unfolded, saying every decision had already been made and adding that it was effectively a pointless exercise.
“I have to be honest,” said Conte. “I think it was a meeting that… yeah, we tried to speak. Some coaches tried to speak, to ask about solutions, but I think everything was decided and yesterday was a wall.”
Asked if the meeting was therefore a waste of time, Conte replied: “I think so. Because when you have a wall in front of you, you can speak or ask what you want. But every decision was [already] taken.”
The prospect of an unprecedented Premier League player strike had been mooted by Pep Guardiola prior to the meeting, but he couched his suggestion by saying it will not happen “because we want to play”.