Training nod in EPL first step
Premier League clubs will return to training on Tuesday after agreeing to allow “small group” sessions to begin, the first step on the road to a return to competitive action.
The league held a conference call for all 20 clubs on Monday where the move was given unanimous backing.
It is the first move in the league’s ‘Project Restart’ plans to resume play in the league, which has not held a game since March 9 owing to the pandemic.
Failure to resume the season could cost the league around £750 million ($913.80 million) in lost revenue from broadcasters, according to British media estimates.
Some reports said clubs could lose out even if the league restarts should broadcasters demand a 330 million pounds rebate.
“Premier League Shareholders today (Monday) voted unanimously to return to small group training from tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon — the first step towards restarting the Premier League, when safe to do so,” the league said in a statement.
“Step One of the Return to Training Protocol enables squads to train while maintaining social distancing. Contact training is not yet permitted,” it added.
The Boris Johnson government last week opened the door for the return of elite sport, but several hurdles remain before the Premier League can resume behind closed doors with the aim of completing the remaining 92 matches of the season.
Clubs will have been encouraged, however, by the return of the Bundesliga at the weekend — the first major soccer league in the world to resume after the lockdown.
Project Restart was originally looking at a June 12 resumption date but should the clubs agree and, if there is no rise in infections in the country, a return date of June 19 or June 26 appears the most likely.
However, the prospect of clubs playing their remaining matches at neutral venues has receded with more than half speaking out against such a proposal.
The league said the decision to return to “group training” had been taken in consultation with players, managers, Premier League club doctors, independent experts and the government.
“Strict medical protocols of the highest standard will ensure everyone returns to training in the safest environment possible,” it added.
“The health and well being of all participants is the Premier League’s priority, and the safe return to training is a step-by-step process.
“Full consultation will now continue with players, managers, clubs, the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) and LMA (League Managers Association) as protocols for full-contact training are developed,” the statement concluded.
Safety measures are expected to include tents where temperature checks will be conducted, strict hygiene criteria, no canteens and no showers. A maximum of five players will be allowed per pitch with tackling forbidden.
Players will be tested twice a week and are being asked to provide written approval that they have received and understood the club’s Covid-19 policy.
The EPL could show more matches on free-to-air TV platforms once it resumes, including during the normally protected 3pm BST (7.30pm IST) slot on a Saturday, to prevent people from gathering outside the stadium, sports minister Oliver Dowden said.
“There is a rule at the moment that at 3pm you can’t show matches on TV because people were watching it in the football stadiums, clearly that is not going to be the case anymore, so some of those slots may be available for free-to-air,” he told BBC TV.