LONDON. — Premier League training will resume this week after clubs unanimously agreed to a set of medical protocols to keep players safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision was taken at a league shareholders’ meeting and allows clubs to undertake limited group-based training starting today, providing that a first round of Covid-19 testing proves negative.
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The protocols were put to a vote after weeks of preparation and some dissent from club doctors and players. They are the first stage in the proposed return of the Premier League.
The protocols enable physically-distant training and further protocols will need to be devised to enable contact training and, ultimately, matches. It was acknowledged at the meeting that the stages to come will prove to be more difficult, with much still to be done.
Players in particular will need to be convinced. While the Bundesliga made a successful return behind closed doors this past weekend, Germany is at a different stage in dealing with the crisis. On Sunday Germany had 589 new confirmed cases of the virus. In the UK that figure was 3,534.
“Phase one is social-distancing individual training with a coach; that’s no problem, that’s like going to the park,” Watford’s captain, Troy Deeney, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain. “Phase two will be next week: six days’ worth of training, three to six people training together with contact, and then six days after that you’re going into 11 v 11 and you can’t social distance with 11 v 11.
“I’m desperate to play football, it’s my job, I’ve got the best job in the world. But there has to be clear and safe measures for everybody, not just me. I saw Tammy Abraham (of Chelsea) say his dad has asthma and he lives with him so he has concerns.
“It’s not just players at the bottom (of the table) who are trying to stay in the league, it’s concerns right across the board. I have had a lot of texts from players who are worried about coming out and speaking. I would say 98% are very much aware that phase one is very good. I would say 65-70% of people are concerned with phase two. I’d say even higher after that.”
The league said in a statement: “This first stage has been agreed 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.
“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 and LMA as protocols for full-contact training are developed.”
In a sign of the practices that will be in place, Newcastle said regarding their return: “Players and staff will arrive at pre-arranged times staggered in groups of a maximum of 10 players, with each working in groups of no more than five in separate areas of two pitches to allow for social-distancing measures at all times.
“Players will arrive in their training kit, parking their cars at least three spaces apart, and will head straight out to the field, with no access to the main building. They will then leave immediately after training. All equipment — including balls, corner flags, cones, goalposts, GPS units, boots and gloves — will be regularly disinfected and players will wear protective snoods on their faces at all times.” — The Guardian.