Football: English Premier League clubs agree to 'small group' training as resumption looms

The English Premier League has 92 games left on its schedule
The English Premier League has 92 games left on its schedule Photo credit: Getty

English Premier League clubs will resume training this week, after agreeing to allow "small group" training sessions to begin, the first step towards a return to competitive action.

The league has held a conference call for all 20 clubs, who backed the move unanimously.

'Project Restart' is designed to resume play in the league, which has not held a game since March 10 (NZ time), due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Failure to play out the season could cost the league an estimated NZ$2billion in lost revenue from broadcasters.

"Premier League shareholders today voted unanimously to return to small group training from tomorrow afternoon - the first step towards restarting the Premier League, when safe to do so," says the league.

"Step one of the 'Return to Training Protocol' enables squads to train while maintaining social distancing," it adds. "Contact training is not yet permitted."

Last week, the Government opened the door for the return of elite sport, but the EPL faces several hurdles before it can resume behind closed doors, aiming to complete the 92 matches left this season.

But clubs will have been encouraged by the return of the German Bundesliga last weekend - the first major soccer league in the world to resume after the lockdown.

Project Restart originally included a June 12 resumption date, but if there is no rise in infections in the country, a return date of June 19 or June 26 appears more likely.

The prospect of clubs playing their remaining matches at neutral venues has receded, with more than half opposed.

The league says the decision to return to "small group training" had been taken in consultation with players, managers, EPL 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 adds.

"The health and wellbeing 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."

Safety measures are expected to include temperature checks, 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.



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