UPDATES: FIFA gives the Premier League Clubs options

The Premier League in England has the option to reschedule matches postponed due to COVID-19 during the international recess at the end of the month, FIFA’s world governing body says.

Eighteen high-level games have been canceled for COVID-related reasons since last month amid a significant spike in cases, with only three new dates so far.

The international window that runs from January 24 to February 2 will not involve European countries.

It has been seen by the league at the start of the season as an opportunity for any player not called up for international service elsewhere to take a break.

However, that 10-day period now could be valuable to catch up on.

A FIFA spokesperson said: “In accordance with Article 1, paragraph 2 of Annex 1 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, the release of players is mandatory for all international windows listed in the international match calendar.

“Therefore, if the clubs and leagues decide to play on those dates, they will not be able to present any player who has been called up / is in international service.”

Playing top-flight matches during the window could create integrity problems, as some clubs are more affected by calls outside of Europe than others.

Many clubs have already weakened after firing players for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), which starts on Sunday and runs through February 6.

The Premier League has not commented on how it intends to reschedule more games beyond the three that were assigned new dates last week.

These are Southampton against Brentford, West Ham against Norwich and Everton against Leicester City.

Ninety-one percent of Premier League games this season have been played on schedule.

Starting Thursday, the league will roll out PCR testing twice a week to all players and staff.

Clubs will continue to perform daily lateral flow tests (LFTs) during training days, but PCR tests will only be performed to confirm a positive lateral flow result.

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