• REUTERS

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The sports world was impacted by COVID-19 infections on Thursday, with soccer and rugby matches called off, a cricket series canceled and action in North America under threat.

A surge of infections, driven by the new omicron variant, suggested more postponements and cancellations may follow.

The Premier League schedule was thrown into chaos as six games were postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks, taking the total for the past week to nine. League officials, however, intend to continue playing where possible as cases in Britain hit a record for the second straight day on Thursday.

The Premier League found a record 42 cases among players and staff at various clubs this week, leading Brentford manager Thomas Frank to suggest this weekend’s games should be postponed as cases "are going through the roof.”

"To postpone this round would give everyone a week at least, or four or five days to clean and do everything at the training ground so everything is clean and you break the chain," Frank said.

Spanish League leader Real Madrid had four more players test positive on Thursday to add to Luka Modric and Marcelo, who went into quarantine 24 hours earlier. Sunday’s home game against Cadiz is going ahead.

Rugby’s European Champions Cup has also been impacted, with Montpellier’s game at home against Leinster the latest to be postponed.

In North America, the NFL, NHL and NBA have all faced a surge in positive tests over the past three days, forcing players into league-mandated COVID-19 protocols and the postponement of games.

The NFL's Cleveland Browns are down to their third-string quarterback for Saturday's game against the Raiders after starter Baker Mayfield and backup Case Keenum tested positive. The Browns already had 16 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, with head coach Kevin Stefanski and assistant Ryan Cordell also unavailable because of the virus.

The Los Angeles Rams placed veteran linebacker Von Miller and eight other players on list Thursday, increasing their total to 21 active players and four practice squad members in the health protocols.

In the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers played with no fans in attendance on Thursday night because of the increase in cases. The announcement was made roughly two hours before the start of the game in Montreal.

"Faced with the spiraling rise of COVID-19 cases in the region, late this afternoon the Montreal Canadiens organization received a request from Quebec public health officials to host tonight's game against the Philadelphia Flyers in a closed setting with no fans in attendance at the Bell Centre," the team said in a statement. "We have accepted this request in order to help ensure the safety and security of our fans and fellow citizens throughout our community."

Australia captain Pat Cummins had to miss the second Ashes cricket test, which started in Adelaide on Thursday, after being in close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

West Indies' tour of Pakistan was cut short after the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the touring party rose to nine.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc said he was self-isolating at home in Monaco after testing positive. The news came after the conclusion of the Formula One season on Sunday.

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