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SPORTS AGENDA: Premier League clubs set to have coronavirus testing halved next season

Premier League clubs are set to undergo one weekly round of Covid-19 testing next season rather than two. No agreement has yet been signed off but the recommendation for a reduction has been passed onto clubs. 

At the moment, the proposals are to halve testing for the first two months of the new campaign before carrying out a review. 

Should players show symptoms, they will be tested regardless. Much will depend on new cases of the virus, and changes can be implemented quickly, but the move could ease some of the burden that twice-weekly testing brings.

History was made on the final day of the Premier League season, with Seb Hutchinson at Burnley versus Brighton the first black commentator to call a game for the division’s IMG-controlled international television feed.

That it took 28 years since the creation of what is now England’s top league for this milestone is astonishing at best, given the numbers of black players in squads up and down the country.

With Hutchinson a regular voice on BT Sport and ITV Sport programming and highly-regarded Mark Scott heard weekly on the BBC’s Match of the Day, the pressure is on Sky Sports to finally diversify its line-up for 2020/21.

Sheffield United supporters would hate to see him on his bike, but that is exactly where Chris Wilder has been. 

The Blades boss, who has masterminded a barely-believable top flight season, has been ‘hammering’ the static bike in the gym, according to Bramall Lane insiders. 

They add that the amount of time Wilder has been spending on the machine, in a successful bid to shift some lockdown timber, has become legendary amongst the squad and is a standing joke with the players.

West Indies have rightly won substantial praise for their willingness to come to England during the pandemic and spend weeks cooped up in hotels in order to play three Test matches. 

Officials at Emirates Old Trafford, where the tourists have been based, have described the team and its management as ‘dream guests’. The impression they have left is best illustrated by the fact a couple of Lancashire staff were happy to package up more than 100 boxes of kit, equipment and souvenirs bought by the group to be shipped home. 

Unsurprisingly, they were handed some mementos by the Windies players in the shape of some kit, along with staff members at the Hilton Garden Inn who have enjoyed the party’s stay.

Dean Saunders’ return to the airwaves for the first time since his failure to take a breath test saw him spend a night in the cells was a gentle affair.

The former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker was originally sent down for 10 weeks after refusing to co-operate with officers when pulled over on suspicion of drink driving, and an video of his unedifying behaviour at the station did him few favours.

Saunders, whose lawyers successfully appealed the jail sentence to have it suspended for 18 months, was interviewed by his former employers at talkSPORT.

However, there was virtually no probing of what happened or why it happened and the video was simply not mentioned. Instead, the ex-Wales international, who is banned from driving for 30 months, spoke only of his remorse and was not even challenged when he said: ‘I can’t believe it happened to me.’

Eagle-eyed viewers of Sky Sports’ cricket coverage will have noticed that Charles Colvile appears to have taken a back seat. 

The 65-year-old, a mainstay from the off, has not been a regular sight and instead Mark Butcher has been hosting The Verdict, prompting some to ponder if Colvile is the next veteran on the chopping block following the departures of Sir Ian Botham and David Gower. 

A Sky Sports spokesman pointed out that Colvile had been involved in documentaries and that The Verdict was not originally scheduled due to potential clashes with white ball cricket.

The government’s abrupt decision to add Spain to the list of countries which visitors need to quarantine for 14 days upon their return to the UK on Saturday sparked feverish activity among players from the Premier League who had booked trips to go to the country immediately after Sunday’s conclusion of the season. 

Many of their Championship counterparts – already in resorts such as Marbella – have not been as lucky. The Westminster move, which was announced with little notice, has put paid to further trips away for many of those in the second tier given the short window between the two seasons. 

Some have scrambled to find flights from Spain direct to their next destination in an attempt to quarantine there, rather than back in the UK.

It is understood that the group who were the administrators’ first choice to buy Wigan Athletic were a middle-eastern based consortium and that the deal fell through after they attempted to launch further negotiations after a price had previously been agreed. 

Talks with the second of the five interested parties were ongoing over the weekend.

Harlequins last week announced that ‘in an act of friendship within the rugby community’ they had extended rivals London Irish the opportunity to play the remainder of this extended season’s matches at The Stoop. 

The Exiles’ tenancy at Reading’s Madejski Stadium has run out and their new home – Brentford’s Community Stadium – is not ready yet.

The move certainly seemed generous and a magnanimous act from Quins towards a side with whom they have considerable history.

However, the tone of the announcement has attracted criticism from some Irish supporters, who pointed out to Sports Agenda that there was no mention of a rumoured six-figure fee.

Sky Sports News producer Andrew Dickson has apologised after an ill-advised social media post on the night St Mirren confirmed seven cases of coronavirus involving coaching staff.

Dickson tweeted: ‘Rumours St Mirren are going to retire the number seven shirt after tonight’s coronavirus news are as yet unconfirmed…’

The tweet was promptly deleted after a furious response but Dickson claimed it was a ‘joke relating to Birmingham retiring their number 22 shirt’ and Jude Bellingham.

The post is likely to have further infuriated Sky Sports bosses prior to the opening games of their exclusive deal with the SPFL.

The fact that the remainder of the season has been meaningless for many clubs in the top flight has resulted in opportunities for younger players. 

However, at one top flight side, one such youngster won himself few friends among the seniors when he was overheard after his first experience training with the first team loudly remarking: ‘That was the s***test session I’ve ever had.’

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