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Dons chief executive demands tougher measures from EFL after Charlton and Portsmouth matches postponed

AFC Wimbledon chief executive Joe Palmer has written an open letter to the EFL – stating their unhappiness that recent matches against Charlton and Portsmouth were both postponed.

The Addicks were due to head to Plough Lane today but injuries and positive Covid-19 cases led to the match being off.

Wimbledon also had their same scenario in their previous fixture, at home to Portsmouth.

Palmer has called for the EFL to take tougher measures against clubs who have not been able to field a matchday squad – claiming they made sure they would be able to fulfil matches.

“We are writing to openly express our disappointment over the recent spate of matches that member clubs have been unable to fulfil,” Palmer wrote, in an open letter published on their official website.

“We also want to take this opportunity to call on the EFL to undertake its due processes and implement the strongest-possible measures to ensure that –  where a club is able to fulfil a fixture – it does so.

“Further, where it is found that a club was unable to fulfil a fixture, they must be held to account for all decisions which led to that position.

“We would also like to advocate for the reintroduction of five substitutions per match. With a congested fixture calendar now a guarantee for all clubs, we would wish to have every tool available to us in order to manage our squad best.

“At the point of writing, six of the 10 fixtures on EFL League One’s Boxing Day schedule cannot be fulfilled. On the weekend of the 18th December, six of the 12 scheduled matches did not go ahead, again because the matches could not be fulfilled.

“AFC Wimbledon has one of the smallest playing budgets in the league and alongside this, one of the smallest first-team playing squads. The club is a London club, where Coronavirus has been most rife. A State of Emergency has been declared by the Mayor of London. Yet since the new Omicrom variant became prevalent, only 11 cases of Coronavirus have been recorded in our playing squad and first-team management (of which only three have been in our player and staff first-team bubble).

“This is not by luck. This is down to hard work and spending resources our club ultimately does not have at its disposal.

“This is the players sacrificing their ability to spend time with their loved ones. Christmas gatherings have been cancelled and everyone at the club has played their part; the players have to be truly commended for their commitment.

“At significant cost, we have tested players twice weekly since the beginning of the season. In the weeks before the Red Zone protocols were brought into effect, we upped this to three tests per week.

“We then moved to Red Zone protocols with daily testing in the week before the EFL’s announcement of such measures.

“The club has isolated individuals and chosen not to select players for match-day squads. We have taken some very difficult decisions to manage our squad, which most likely led to a loss of on-field competitiveness.

“Training has been impacted by the immediate removal or our U23 and loan players from our training group (due to the likelihood of exposure to Covid-19 at their non-league loan clubs).

“If we can make all this work – on such limited resources – then so should the rest.

“AFC Wimbledon understands that we are not alone in undertaking these measures and acknowledges some clubs may well have gone further.

“However, we can’t help feeling the preventative measures taken by the club ultimately cost us a competitive edge on the pitch earlier in the season.  Yet now, when our measures are truly coming into their own, we have been hit financially with the postponement of our two-largest revenued fixtures of the season.

“Whilst acknowledging that two further dates have been created in the fixture list (with the removal of Emirates FA Cup replay dates in Rounds 3 and 4), no team would enter this competition with the hope of getting a replay.

“You play to win first time around, thus giving entrance into the next round and alleviating potential fixture congestion. We will now be forced into playing these matches, at a rapid turnaround, which will have a serious effect on the players’ physical and mental welfare.

“It just doesn’t sit right that, having gone above and beyond our means to ensure matches can be fulfilled, we will now be at a disadvantage – trying to navigate a very congested second half of the season with a small squad.

“Meanwhile, clubs with larger squads will have the upper hand, having been provided the opportunity to take a more relaxed approach knowing there will be no penalties for conduct that sits outside of the protocols.”

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