Newcastle boss Eddie Howe believes uncertainty over whether teams may be playing against opponents with Covid-19 creates a “dangerous playing field”.
Earlier this week, Howe questioned the integrity of the Premier League with the weekend’s schedule decimated by Covid cases.
Newcastle’s match at home to Manchester City is currently going ahead as planned, but there have been six postponements in the top tier this weekend.
Howe reiterated his belief to Sky Sports that integrity must be a factor when considering whether to pursue with a depleted schedule, and added his concerns over how safe a match that goes ahead might be.
“I think health and safety is the first [concern],” he said. “Everyone’s individual lives matter, we have to put that at the forefront of everything. After that, I think the integrity of the competition is key, because you don’t want to see disparity in games.
“You don’t want to see some people playing with Covid cases [in their squad] and some teams not, that’s an uneasy feeling for me.
“At the moment we’re Covid-free and we want to play, but we don’t want to play in an environment where the other team might have Covid cases and not be aware of it. It creates a dangerous playing field for all teams.
“I know it’s not ideal. The situation in the country is far from ideal, and we’re still finding out about the variant, so I’m not saying there’s an ideal answer, but I do think the integrity of the competition needs to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds.”
Asked about his fears the league could grind to a halt, Howe added: “It’s easy to say what I don’t want, but very difficult to say ‘we should do this’. We want the games to continue, the league to be finished, the supporters to enjoy football, to do it in a safe way.
“I’m not saying it’s an easy decision for the Premier League or anyone connected with the decision-making process, but health and safety at the forefront of everyone’s minds and a fair competition.”
Looking ahead to the January transfer window, Howe said a couple of factors could make signings difficult, but stressed the club are seeking solutions in their bid to beat the drop.
Howe said: “A good window for us looks like a stronger squad than when we started the transfer window, but that doesn’t give any guarantees.
“We’re doing the work behind the scenes. I still think the squad we have is the biggest strength we have in the fight against relegation, but if we can find a couple of solutions and make the team stronger we’ll certainly look to do that.
“There are a few challenges we face. Availability – will they come with our current league position, which is a concern, and January is notoriously very difficult. They are the challenges we’ll work under but we’ll do our best to find a solution.”