Shrewsbury Town face having to forfeit their place in the FA Cup after their third-round match against Southampton was postponed following a number of positive coronavirus tests.
The Football Association’s Professional Game Board will meet early next week to decide whether the game can be rescheduled. But the FA stressed in a letter to clubs last Friday that the matches must go ahead if both teams had 14 fit registered players available – and if a club had to postpone a fixture then the PGB was likely to award the tie to their opponents.
The developments at Shrewsbury emerged shortly before Aston Villa’s Cup tie with Liverpool on Friday was plunged into doubt after Villa’s first-team squad was forced into self-isolation by a Covid outbreak at the club.
Shrewsbury said in a statement on their website that they had “reluctantly” advised the FA it was unable to play “following medical advice given to the club that it would be unsafe to play the match”, adding: “No training has taken place since last week and the club has closed our Sundorne Castle training ground for 10 days. This decision and our actions have been supported by Public Health [Shropshire].”
Rachel Robinson, Shropshire’s director of public health, said they were working closely with the club to help limit any further potential spread. “All positive cases, as well as close contacts, are self-isolating for at least 10 days in line with national guidance,” she said.
To make matters worse for Shrewsbury there is a narrow window for the match to be played, with the Guardian understanding the FA wants all third-round ties completed before the start of the fourth round on 23 January. Southampton are due to play at Leeds in the Premier League on Wednesday 20 January.
Middlesbrough, who are due to travel to Brentford on Saturday, effectively shut down their training headquarters on Monday after positive cases among first-team staff and players, and a further round of testing, which included under-23s players, took place on Thursday. The results are expected before the weekend.
Sheffield Wednesday said “a significant number of club personnel” had returned positive tests, including the caretaker manager Neil Thompson and his assistants Lee Bullen and Steven Haslam.
They will miss the Cup game Exeter on Saturday, leaving the academy coach Andy Holdsworth to take charge.
All 64 clubs in the third round have undergone testing this week, with the Football League expected to reveal its results on Friday morning.
Derby, who have had a spate of positive Covid-19 this week, are set to pick a team of under-23 and under-18 players for their game at Chorley on Saturday.