According to the Mirror, Premier League clubs will meet on Friday to discuss the latest plans to resume the 2019/20 season.
Leaked documents suggest clubs and players will have to adhere to a range of health and safety procedures to resume group training sessions as ‘Project Restart’ steps up a gear with the window of opportunity narrowing every day.
Uefa has asked its members to indicate by 25 May whether they’ll be able to complete their domestic seasons before 31 July, with the governing body earmarking August for Europa League and Champions League fixtures.
While the Germans are confident they can get Bundesliga games going behind closed doors, Holland, Belgium and France have already called time on the Eredivisie, Jupiler League and Ligue 1 respectively.
There’s nothing to suggest that the Premier League is better prepared than its continental peers for coping with football during COVID-19 but with broadcast revenue at stake, they seem determined to find a route forward.
Proposals for a resumption of training, written by Premier League director of football Richard Garlick include:
- Testing all players and officials 48 hours before returning to training and they will also be tested for potential respiratory problems associated with coronavirus.
- All footballs, global positioning system [GPS] units, cones, corner flags, goalposts and other equipment to be disinfected before and after use by staff wearing personal protective equipment [PPE]
- Players to wear snood/masks at all times
- Cars to be parked three spaces apart
- No massages unless approved by club doctor
- Fluids to be left at designated pick-up points
- Only visit training block to use toilet
- Initially only five players per training group
- Players to be given designated time slots and 15 minutes to prepare
- 75 minutes of small group training
- 15 minutes’ recovery
- Players and staff will be banned from spitting at the training ground
Arsenal opened London Colney this week so that players could use the pitches to train solo. Drone footage showed them doing shuttle runs and ball work and the changing rooms and facilities remained locked.
In recent weeks, there has been talk of creating quarantined football camps at Wembley and St George’s Park with multiple games being played each day and the action being made available via streaming services. Calculations have even been made as to the bare minimum number of people needed to put on matches. None of it sounds very practical.
Notwithstanding the moral issues of regularly testing players when such tests haven’t been readily available to frontline healthcare workers, let alone the rest of us, this whole thing sounds like a massive ball ache with the potential to do far more damage than good on the health front.
Speaking to the BBC, the chair of Fifa’s medical committee, Michel d’Hooghe, said: “My proposal is if it is possible, avoid playing competitive football in the coming weeks. Try to be prepared for the start of good competition next season.
He added: “There is a risk and it is not a risk that has small consequences. It can have consequences of life and death and that is why I am so careful and I ask everyone to be very careful before deciding to play again.
“I speak as a medical doctor, I don’t have to speak as an organiser of matches, but for the moment from my medical standpoint I would be very sceptical.”