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. However 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 Professional Game Board was likely to award the tie to their opponents.
In a statement on Shrewsbury’s website, the club said it had “reluctantly” had to advise the FA that it was unable to play “following medical advice given to the club that it would be unsafe to play the match”.
“No training has taken place since last week and the Club has closed our Sundorne Castle Training Ground for 10 days,” it added. “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 very narrow window for the match to be played, with the Guardian understanding that 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.
All 64 clubs in the third round have undergone testing this week, with the Football League expected to reveal its results on Friday morning.
As things stand no other game is believed to be under threat with Derby, who have had a spate of positive Covid-19 this week, expected to pick a team of under-23 and under-18 players for their game at Chorley on Saturday.