Wayne Rooney and the whole of Derby’s first-team squad are set to miss their FA Cup third-round tie with Chorley on Saturday because of a coronavirus outbreak at the club.
Discussions are ongoing to try to avoid the need for the Championship club to forfeit the tie, despite the entire first-team squad in isolation and the club’s Moor Farm training ground being closed until Tuesday as a precaution.
All of Derby’s players and staff are due be tested for coronavirus again on Thursday but there is little expectation that any of them will be able to feature in the Chorley match.
Plans are being put in place for Derby’s youth players to represent the club in Saturday’s game, with a combination of U23 and U18 players making up the matchday squad.
Academy director Darren Wassall is likely to take charge on the day.
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Honouring the fixture is proving a logistical nightmare for Derby, because six members of their U23 squad were promoted to train and play with the first team before this latest outbreak.
As a result, those six are part of the first team ‘eco bubble’, and are isolating in the same way as their older team-mates.
The Derby hierarchy are still determined to play the match if it is practically possible to do so and it is thought Derby could meet the FA protocols by fielding a junior side, because those younger players have been kept in a separate eco bubble to the first team.
FA Cup, forfeits and coronavirus – what’s the guidance?
No club will automatically have to forfeit an FA Cup game if they are affected by coronavirus, with each case to be assessed by the FA on its individual circumstances, Sky Sports News understands.
All teams taking part in this weekend’s FA Cup games have to be tested for coronavirus 72 hours before the fixture.
In practice, a club will be told it must fulfil an FA Cup fixture if they have 14 players fit and available to play, although there are no specific guidelines about what level those players must be playing at, in order to be classed as eligible.
It has therefore remained unclear whether the availability of U23 and U18 players means a club can technically fulfil a fixture, though Derby appear willing to field a team of youngsters.
Any club which feels it cannot fulfil a fixture must apply to the FA for a review.
The FA will then investigate the individual circumstances at that club, considering factors such as whether they followed the necessary protocols, how many players are affected, and what is the strongest team they could actually field, before a decision is made by the Professional Game Board.
They would then decide whether the game should go ahead; be postponed and re-arranged; or forfeited by the team that is unable to fulfil the fixture.
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