Premier League clubs have agreed to start contact training as preparations intensify for the resumption of English football.
As part of ‘Project Restart,’ players and staff are being tested for coronavirus twice a week, with those testing positive forced to self-isolate for seven days.
Earlier this week the Premier League said it carried out tests on 1,008 players and staff, reporting that four were positive across three different clubs. Since testing began on May. 17, 2,752 tests have been carried out and 12 people — 0.2% — have tested positive. In the next round of testing, the number of tests available to each club will increase from 50 to 60. The U.K. government launched its own nationwide test and trace system on Thursday, which will also require people to self-isolate even if they don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms, as the country looks to emerge from lockdown. The government has also approved the restart of sporting events behind closed doors from Jun. 1.
The 20 Premier League clubs unanimously voted to restart contact training on Wednesday — moving to stage two of ‘Project Restart.’
“Squads are now able to train as a group and engage in tackling while minimizing any unnecessary close contact,” the league said in a statement. A date for the league’s return could be agreed later this week, with a Jun. 19 or Jun. 26 restart being discussed, according to reports. The clubs receive millions each year in television revenue as part of deals with broadcasters, including Sky and BT
as well as international broadcasters. That revenue would be under threat if the season doesn’t resume. Clubs may still be forced to pay a potential £330 million rebate to broadcasters even if the season is completed, according to reports.
German football returned on May. 16 — the first major European league to do so — with matches being played in empty stadiums. Substitutes and nonplaying staff have been made to sit wearing face masks, while on-pitch celebrations have been limited to players touching elbows and, in some cases, dancing at a safe distance. Fake crowd noise was added to some of the matches broadcast in the U.S. at the weekend, attracting a mixed response.
Fans of the Premier League will certainly be treated when it finally returns with a bumper television schedule. Viewers could be set for five back-to-back matches on Saturdays and then again on Sundays, with games also scheduled for Tuesdays and Wednesdays, according to reports.
Despite plans to get back on the pitch, a number of high-profile players, including Chelsea’s N’Golo Kanté and Watford captain Troy Deeney have refused to return to training. Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero has expressed concerns over resuming the league.