Sheffield United set to discover today if their FA Cup tie at Bristol Rovers can progress as scheduled amid Covid-19 fears

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Sheffield United could discover today if Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Bristol Rovers is likely to be disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, after their opponents underwent a mandatory round of tests paid for by organisers.

Unlike their top-flight counterparts, clubs in the English Football League - Rovers are 18th in League One following Saturday’s win over Blackpool - are not required to undergo regular screening for the respiratory disease, although a competition wide programme was rolled-out this week in response to rising case numbers.

Amid fears several matches could fall victim as a result, officials at the Football Association have confirmed they will provide funding for all non Premier League teams still involved in this season’s tournament to undergo the procedures - which must be completed 72 hours before kick-off.

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Earlier this term, Rovers were forced to postpone games against Charlton Athletic and Oxford United because of an outbreak at their training facility. Two members of United’s first team squad and others working in coaching and back office roles have also been self-isolating since returning positive results before this month’s trip to Burnley. Providing they are no longer showing any symptoms other than a persistent cough, or are simply suffering from a loss of taste and smell, the players and staff concerned will be free to travel to the Memorial Stadium.

Bristol Rovers manager Paul Tisdale is preparing his team to face Sheffield United in the FA Cup this weekendBristol Rovers manager Paul Tisdale is preparing his team to face Sheffield United in the FA Cup this weekend
Bristol Rovers manager Paul Tisdale is preparing his team to face Sheffield United in the FA Cup this weekend

United’s players are tested twice a week as part of a PL programme designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus among its members, with two coaches rather than one also being hired for away games in order to try and reduce the number of ‘close contacts’ in the event of a positive diagnosis.

Rovers were initially required to adhere to national social distancing guidelines and the EFL’s matchday protocols only. However, the growing health crisis meant Paul Tisdale’s side were scheduled to undergo testing this week, as the EFL prepares to roll-out its own bi-weekly programme.

The FA has refused to take a unilateral decision about what will happen if any of this weekend’s ties are unable to go ahead, with clubs requesting a postponement ordered to state their case through official channels.

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