he Premier League, EFL and WSL have announced the postponement of all football matches this weekend following the death of Her Majesty the Queen.
A full slate of ten fixtures was due to take place in the top-flight across Saturday, Sunday and Monday but will now be rearranged as a mark of respect for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, who passed away at Balmoral on Thursday at the age of 96.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) chaired a call on Friday morning to discuss sport’s response, where it was confirmed that official guidance includes no obligation to cancel fixtures during the period of mourning, with postponements “at the discretion of individual organisations”.
Several other major sporting events are now expected to go ahead this weekend but Premier League clubs took the decision not to play following a shareholder’s meeting. It is understood that logistical concerns around policing were also a factor.
“We and our clubs would like to pay tribute to Her Majesty’s long and unwavering service to our country,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said in a statement. “As our longest-serving monarch, she has been an inspiration and leaves behind an incredible legacy following a life of dedication.
“This is a tremendously sad time for not just the nation but also for the millions of people around the world who admired her, and we join together with all those in mourning her passing.”
It added that an update over further Premier League fixtures during the mourning period would be issued in due course. There could yet be further logistical issues around staging next weekend’s matches in the run-up to the Queen’s funeral.
The EFL had already announced the postponement of two Friday night fixtures – Burnley vs Norwich and Tranmere vs Stockport – and has now axed the rest of its programme across the Championship, League One and League Two, while the Women’s Super League (WSL) has followed suit, with the national sport opting for a uniform response.
This weekend was due to mark the start of the new WSL season and the first top-level women’s football to be played in this country since England’s European Championship triumph in the summer.
Earlier on Thursday, the Irish FA announced that all matches due to take place in Northern Ireland this weekend had been postponed. Decisions over football in Scotland and Wales are expected later on Friday.
No plans have yet been made as to when the suspended Premier League fixtures will take place but it is unlikely that they will be able to be played this side of the winter World Cup in Qatar, with the schedule already packed out with domestic and European competition. One option could be to play the matches as and when gaps in the schedule open up for individual clubs – as was the case with Covid-19 cancellations – rather than attempting to fit a full matchday into the calendar later in the campaign.
There is also the possibility of the season, currently scheduled to finish on May 28 next year, being extended but that would cause further complications with European club finals planned for early June, followed by an international window that includes the Uefa Nations League Finals.
No decision has yet been taken over next week’s European matches, which will depend upon the outcome of discussions with Uefa. Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal all have home matches scheduled, while Tottenham, West Ham and both Manchester clubs are due to play away.
News of the Queen’s passing broke midway through Arsenal’s Europa League opener against FC Zurich on Thursday, with a minute’s silence held before the start of the second half.
Talks were held over the possibility of a postponement at the London Stadium, where West Ham were hosting Romanian side FCSB in the Europa Conference League, but guidance from the Government, FA and Uefa eventually saw the match go ahead due to safety concerns given the number of people already in the stadium.
A minute’s applause was held ahead of kick-off and players wore black armbands, as was the case at Old Trafford, where flags were flown at half-mast during United’s 1-0 defeat by Real Sociedad. All three clubs cancelled their post-match media activity as a mark of respect.