Rotherham game off and 32 positive tests at top women’s clubs amid Covid

The growing disruption to football caused by Covid-19 was underlined on Wednesday when Rotherham’s Championship match at Middlesbrough on Boxing Day was postponed and it emerged that 32 players across the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship tested positive last week.

Rotherham’s home fixture against Derby last Saturday was called off after one of their players tested positive for coronavirus and others showed symptoms. The club said “a number of further positive cases of Covid-19” within the first-team squad meant they could not fulfil the fixture at Boro.

The number of positive tests in the top two tiers of the women’s game has increased rapidly: 32 last week from 864 tests follows four the previous week (from 854) and two the week before that (from 867).

The FA said the most recent tests were carried out “between 14 December 2020 and 20 December 2020 inclusive”. No matches in the WSL or Women’s Championship are due to be played until the weekend of 9-10 January.

EFL clubs are reviewing the measures they are taking to limit the spread, with the Ipswich physio Matt Byard saying a temporary suspension of play could act as a “circuit-breaker” and the League One club’s manager, Paul Lambert, concerned the system is operating “on a wing and a prayer”.

Ipswich, Bristol Rovers and Sunderland are among clubs who have had to call off matches because of Covid this month.

Rotherham said: “We have reluctantly – but with the safety of our players and staff at the forefront of our minds – informed the EFL and our opponents, Middlesbrough, that we will be unable to fulfil our Boxing Day fixture.”

The EFL will open an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the cancelation of the game, as it does with all such postponements.

Premier League player in tier 4 areas will be tested for Covid-19 twice a week as soon as it is practically possible to do so and increased testing will be widened out to top-division clubs in lower-tier areas from next month, it is understood.