Derby County have confirmed they will send a group of under-23 and under-18 players to play in the FA Cup at Chorley on Saturday following a coronavirus outbreak which has closed their training ground.
Interim manager Wayne Rooney, his coaching staff, and the whole of Derby’s first-team squad are set to miss the match because of the outbreak.
Derby are able to play their younger players in the cup as they operate within a different bubble, although the group will be tested on Thursday morning to ensure none of them have contracted coronavirus.
The first-team squad, who remain in isolation with the club’s Moor Farm training ground closed until Tuesday, will also be tested again on Thursday.
“The first team and coaching staff are in isolation until early next week when they are re-tested,” said Derby chief executive Stephen Pearce.
“But we will be able to fulfil our fixture against Chorley as the Football Association regulations are slightly different to the EFL.
“If you’ve got 14 registered players – and it doesn’t matter whether they are academy registered or first-team registered – you are obliged to fulfil the fixture if you can, unless for other reasons if you want to apply.
“We still have 16 players we are still able to put out on Saturday. As a club we’re quite pleased to do that and we’re keen to get the game up and running.
“It’s a great opportunity for those guys, and for Pat Lyons and Gary Bowyer, who will be taking the team on the weekend.”
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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.
Southampton-Shrewsbury tie in doubt
There are also doubts over the FA Cup third-round tie between Shrewsbury and Southampton after several Shrews players returned positive coronavirus tests.
Certain individuals will now enter a period of isolation.
The club has now informed Shropshire Public Health, the EFL and the FA of the situation and discussions will continue.
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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