Efforts to resume the Premier League continue to intensify ahead of the crunch shareholders’ meeting today.
Premier League chiefs will use the fortnightly conference call to presents clubs with further details of ‘Project Restart’, including plans to play the remaining 92 fixtures behind closed doors at “approved venues”. It is also expected that clubs will resume full training by May 18, allowing players a three week “pre-season”.
The plans will also mean that the Premier League will avoid paying a rebate of £762 million to Sky, BT, and overseas TV broadcasters, which would have been due had the season not been finished.
The league has been suspended since 13 March because of the Coronavirus pandemic, however all 20 clubs remain committed to finishing the season with officials reportedly eyeing a resumption of the season on June 8. This would allow the league to finish by the end of July, thus conforming with UEFA’s European competition plans.
Arsenal, Brighton and West Ham reopened their training grounds for individual work on Monday – albeit with strict social distancing protocols.
A West Ham spokesperson said: “Players in apartments or without safe access to green spaces are permitted to individually run around the pitches at Rush Green.”
“Access will be limited to one player at a time and all sessions will be in line with Government guidelines around social distancing, with everyone’s safety and wellbeing of paramount importance.”
“Players will travel alone, conduct their tailored programmes and then return home. No-one will be granted access to the main building.”
From today, Spurs have made a limited number of pitches available at Hotspur Way, though the club has restricted the number of players who will be at the training ground at any one time.
It is understood that medical representatives from the clubs gathered for a conference call last Friday to discuss division-wide protocols on training and testing. Regular testing has been considered a crucial part of any restart plan with the costs of the tests being met by the Premier League.
The players’ union (the Professional Footballers’ Association) has been heavily involved in discussions around the protocols, however Fifpro, the world players’ union, says the return of football risks sending a “bad signal”.
Secretary-general Jonas Baer-Hofmann stated: “There is a huge logistical and medical/scientific question about testing and protocols but also a social one”.
“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?”
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden remarked on Monday during a parliamentary questions session for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, “I personally have been in talks with the Premier League with a view to getting football up and running as soon as possible in order to support the whole football community.”
“But, of course, any such moves would have to be consistent with public health guidance.”
Any of resumption of sport could only happen if the government’s five tests are fulfilled, covering areas such as NHS capacity and the availability of testing and PPE.
European football’s governing body UEFA has asked its members leagues to submit restart plans by May 25 as it begins work on next season’s continental club competitions.
They have expressed a desire for seasons to be completed if possible and issued guidelines last week that qualification places should be settled on sporting merit using “objective, transparent and non-discriminatory” criteria.