Premier League managers have been left unhappy with this month’s international treble header

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Premier League managers have been left unhappy with this month’s international treble header.

But the fixture list will be even more punishing in 2021 when World Cup qualifying starts in March with another treble header during the domestic title run-in and amid big Champions League knock-out ties.

The World Cup qualifying draw takes place next month on December 7 in Zurich when England will discover their Group opponents for a place in Qatar in 2022.

It is a completely new-look qualifying campaign with three dates set aside in March and another three in September with countries drawn into Groups of five or six.

There are also dates in October and November while the winners of the Nations League Group matches will go into the Groups of five with the Nations League finals played in the spare dates next autumn.

The fixture schedule over the next 12 months is unprecedented and will only heighten the big clubs’ calls for five substitutes to be introduced while Gareth Southgate must harbour concerns about player fitness and his big names being released.

FA officials took a bit of stick for re-arranging the friendly with Ireland after Australia pulled out but the TV contract meant they had to play another game and UEFA also want countries to play the same number of games so no-one gets an advantage.

Jurgen Klopp wearing a hat: Jurgen Klopp has lamented the fixture schedule

© Getty Images Jurgen Klopp has lamented the fixture schedule

SKY’S excellent co-commentator Alan Smith hit upon another talking point in an interesting week for VAR while on duty for Leicester’s win over Wolves.

There are different guidelines for VAR and referees to check video footage on handballs and red card offences. Referee Anthony Taylor gave one of penalties in the game after consulting a pitch side monitor for a handball against Wolves defender Max Kilman.

Refs are supposed to watch replays of red card offences at real speed so they can judge the intensity of challenges. Taylor was questioned by several pundits why he watched a slo mo of Kilman. But handball decisions can be slowed down to see where the ball hits the arm.

Sky crossing over to Stockley Park during that game also caused debate as it appeared hub commander Neil Swarbrick – who is one of three along with Mike Mullarkey and Adam Carter – was carrying out an inquest into the handball. But it was a pretty standard chat.

a group of football players on a field: Leicester benefited from a contentious penalty call

© Getty Images Leicester benefited from a contentious penalty call

ONLY the BBC could launch a new women’s football podcast on the premise of the host slagging off the media for misquoting, taking quotes out of context and using pieces just for clickbait.

Players Podcast host Bex Smith said: “As sports people, we are at the media’s mercy.” All of this is fine and she is entitled to her view apart from the fact it seems to completely overlook that the BBC is part of the media unless they have explained it differently to her.

Or maybe the BBC simply do not trust their own journalists to do the show anymore.

a tall glass building: The BBC have launched a women's football podcast

© PA The BBC have launched a women’s football podcast

THE fall-out from the Premier League’s pay-per-view debacle continues.

It cropped up again this week when Prem chief executive Richard Masters was quizzed by the DCMS Select Committee as to who was to blame for the £14.95 shambles.

Sky and BT Sport are furious that they have been painted as the bad guys, are unhappy with the Premier League and it remains to be seen whether it will have a knock-on effect in the next round of TV rights negotiations which are due to start soon.

Industry insiders are expecting TV companies to push back for various reasons after the pandemic and pay-per-view has become a real sore point.

UEFA have different coronavirus protocols to those used in the Premier League.

Some appointed Covid officers have to wear full body suits to protect themselves while in stadiums for Champions League and Europa League games.

THIS year promises to be a bumper Christmas for sports books with Andrew Cole’s Fast Forward the latest excellent autobiography to be released.

Alan Brazil’s recollections have sold really well so far, Stuart Pearce’s Euro 96 story is out and plus the likes of James Haskell, Geraint Thomas, Andrew Flintoff and Marco Van Basten have also got new books on the shelves.

Arsene Wenger’s self written autobiography was the hottest release of the year, has had mixed reviews because it was not the warts and all book we had hoped for. But it has still sold very well and topped quite a few charts.

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