Premier League: Queen's funeral causes more postponements, and a headache for Arsenal
Two more English Premier League matches have been postponed as soccer officials attempt to navigate Britain's ongoing "national mourning" for Queen Elizabeth II.
Manchester United's game against Leeds and Chelsea's clash with Liverpool, both scheduled for Sunday, have been called off "due to events surrounding the queen’s funeral," the Premier League announced on Monday.
Elizabeth II, Britain's longest-reigning monarch, died last Thursday at age 96. All of English soccer paused this past weekend "to honor her extraordinary life and contribution to the nation, and as a mark of respect." It will resume this week, with seven EPL games going ahead. But the funeral, which will take place next Monday, Sept. 19, in London, has created logistical issues for England's biggest clubs.
In addition to the two Premier League postponements, Arsenal's Europa League game against Dutch club PSV, scheduled to take place Thursday in London, was postponed "due to the severe limitations on police resources and organizational issues," UEFA, the European soccer governing body, said.
And with no space on the calendar to make up that game, further disruption — and perhaps even a forfeit — is ahead.
Queen's funeral shakes up Premier League schedule
The Arsenal postponement portended a chaotic week. The Premier League and others will break Monday, the day of the funeral, for an international window. But nine games were scheduled to take place Friday through Sunday, with three of the nine in London. (The tenth, Brighton versus Crystal Palace, had already been postponed due to "planned industrial action on the rail network," with "no public transport available for supporters.")
Seven of the games will be played. Two Friday games — Aston Villa versus Southampton in Birmingham and Nottingham Forest versus Fulham in Nottingham — and two others outside London on Saturday — Wolves-Manchester City in Wolverhampton and Newcastle-Bournemouth in Newcastle — will be unaffected.
Tottenham's Saturday home game, in London against Leicester City, also remains on.
But on Sunday, Brentford-Arsenal in London has been moved up two hours, and will begin at noon local time (7 a.m. ET). The other London game, Chelsea-Liverpool, is postponed, as is Manchester United-Leeds.
Why can't Chelsea and Man United games be played?
Westminster Abbey, the site of the funeral, is roughly three miles away from Chelsea's West London stadium, and some 200 miles away from Manchester United's Old Trafford.
The issue, though, is the redeployment of police officers — some of whom might typically work a Chelsea or United game — to deal with an influx of visitors to the capital, and to secure the pageantry surrounding the 10-day period of mourning.
Old Trafford — the biggest club stadium in England — and Chelsea's Stamford Bridge require significantly more police resources than, say, Brentford's 17,250-seat stadium.
The English Football League — which governs the second through fourth tiers of men's soccer in England and Wales — said that its teams would resume Tuesday, and that, "with a national policing plan now in operation, the league and clubs will continue to work with forces in respect of any challenges that may emerge regarding policing of specific fixtures."
Will non-Premier League games be affected?
On Monday, the English Football Association announced that the Women's Super League and other soccer throughout the country would resume this week. All 12 midweek games in the second-tier EFL Championship are on.
In continental competitions, Arsenal's Europa League match is off, but Chelsea's Wednesday Champions League match remains on. (Arsenal's stadium, the Emirates, requires a more sizable policing operating than Stamford Bridge.)
Scottish club Rangers was forced to push its Champions League game against Napoli from Tuesday to Wednesday, with the queen's coffin to be transported from Scotland to London on Tuesday evening. And no Napoli fans are allowed to travel to the UK for the rescheduled game.
Minutes of silence will likely be held before all games that do go ahead. The EFL said that players would wear black armbands, flags would be flown at half-mast, and the national anthem would be played at stadiums. The Premier League will likely engineer similar tributes.
When will postponed matches be made up?
The postponements will further muddy an already-congested calendar. The Premier League and other competitions have packed their traditional nine-month season into roughly eight months so that they can break for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, which was moved to an unprecedented November-December window to avoid dangerous heat.
Most top English clubs are already scheduled to play two games per week between now and the World Cup break. The postponed matches — which already included Fulham-Chelsea, Manchester City-Tottenham and Arsenal-Everton — will likely not be playable until 2023.
Arsenal's Europa League game, though, presents a one-of-a-kind headache. It cannot be played in the spring, because the group stage is scheduled to wrap up in early November. The knockout round draw is slated for Nov. 7. The Gunners, therefore, are seemingly left with just two options: A) postpone another Premier League game to fit in the Europa League game, or B) forfeit it.
UEFA said that "a new date [would] be communicated in due course." No makeup dates for any of the postponed game have yet been announced.