27 April 2020 – Plans to resume the Premier League season will step up this week in what has been labelled “Project Restart”.
Arsenal, Brighton and West Ham have opened their training grounds to players for individual work on Monday (27 April 2020).
The league is hopeful of a potential 8 June restart and finishing at the end of July to fit in with Uefa’s European competition plans. This would require full training to begin by 18 May.
Top-flight clubs will meet on Friday to discuss options for the restart.
The Premier League has been suspended since 13 March because of the coronavirus pandemic and all clubs remain committed to playing this season’s 92 remaining fixtures.
All games are expected to be held behind closed doors and the league is considering making some available free-to-air.
One issue under debate on Friday will be what “approved stadiums” will be used and whether that will be a limited number of grounds or neutral venues.
However, a return to action still depends on the government’s five tests being met, especially an increase in testing, and meeting social distancing guidelines.
It also hinges on the conclusions reached by regular cross-sport meetings of senior medical officials discussing the health protocols for competing behind closed doors, which are set to start this week.
The BBC reported on Saturday (25 April) how the government has plans for a series of these meetings to help elite sport resume.
The move was described by a source close to the plans as a “quickening of the pace” and intended to help sport resume “within weeks”, if progress was made.
More than 20,000 people in the UK have died with coronavirus.
|How Arsenal players will train|
|Players are arriving in groups of five to do individual sessions, stretching and running with a ball|
|10 pitches are used so players do not come into contact with each other|
|Each player is assigned their own ball|
|Players are on a rota and told where to park|
|Buildings at the training ground are closed|
|Club feel training at Colney is safer than in parks, where players were being asked for selfies|
On Sunday (26 April), Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it would be “difficult” for amateur sport to return this summer due to the “level and scale of interaction” but that professional sport may be able to return “because of the scale of testing” that could be introduced.
Clubs in Germany’s Bundesliga have already returned to training and the top-flight season is ready to restart on 9 May if given the go-ahead by the government.
In Italy, Serie A sides can return to individual training on 4 May and team training on 18 May after the Italian prime minister announced the first steps in lifting the country’s coronavirus lockdown.
World players’ union Fifpro says the return of football risks sending a “bad signal”.
“There is a huge logistical and medical/scientific question about testing and protocols but also a social one,” said secretary-general Jonas Baer-Hoffmann.
“We need guidance and protocols on how to return in a healthy and safe manner. Football is a contact sport and we feel very high protection standards are required.
“Are we sending the right message to society, and are we encouraging a healthy return to normal life? Or are we sending a bad signal that football has different rules to the rest of the world?”