With Premier League clubs meeting on Friday and a new group led by the digital, culture, media and sports department also meeting this week, government officials speak of an “accelerating pace”. But as some Premier League clubs open their training grounds, the details of how elite sport could safely return remain unresolved.
It’s not until Friday that top-flight clubs will be introduced by the league with a protocol allowing a full return to training. After a weekend of headlines announcing the return of high-level football, with a three-week preseason starting in May and closed games starting June 9, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said Monday in Parliament that it supported a quick return but with an important coda.
“I have personally been in talks with the Premier League to get football started as soon as possible in order to support the entire football community,” he said. “But, of course, such measures should comply with public health directives. “
A meeting between DCMS, representatives from Public Health England and leaders from Britain’s biggest sports, including the Premier League, is scheduled to take place this week to discuss how the sport could safely resume. It is understood that any medical and safety plan must be approved by PHE and the government.
While the challenges of staging sport, even behind closed doors, are increasingly debated, those which precede any resumption of competition are also gaining the upper hand.
On Monday, Arsenal, West Ham and Brighton reopened their facilities for distance training and Tottenham will do the same on Tuesday. With time limits and the number of athletes, each club establishes its own conditions. Arsenal have allowed a maximum of five players on their training grounds at a time, while West Ham and Tottenham limit their players to solo racing. The Spurs say no more than one player will be allowed onto the field at any one time and that players must arrive alone in kit form and return home immediately after their session.
According to an expert, conditions should improve considerably so that the final preparations for any recovery start in mid-May.
“With social estrangement, you can’t do the things that tick a lot of boxes,” said Dr. Craig Boyd, senior lecturer in sports performance at Manchester Metropolitan University, who has worked with soccer clubs. elite and GB team athletes. “The moments that define the game are sprinting, turning, stopping, tackling and doing it while considering the opponents and the ball.
“These are the most strenuous activities in football and increase the chances of success and failure. They are currently totally stripped and, even in small groups, they would be problematic. Overcoming social distancing is the big thing.
“Players will need less time to get in shape than in the normal preseason because they will not be flying around the world to play games. But until you have gathered the whole team, it is impossible to work on the technical, tactical and physical aspects. And if you don’t have enough time to do it, it will increase the likelihood of injury. “
In a move that seems to recognize the physical demands that will be placed on players when the season begins, Fifa announced on Monday that it would advocate the temporary introduction of up to five replacements per team. These could be performed in up to three play locations and at halftime.
“Player safety is a top priority for FIFA,” said a spokesperson. “One concern in this regard is that the frequency of matches can increase the risk of potential injury due to overloading the player.
“Given this and the unique challenge facing the world to organize competitions according to the schedule originally planned, FIFA is proposing that more substitutions be temporarily allowed at the discretion of the competent organizer. This could apply until the end of the 2020-21 season and international matches until December 31, 2021.
Elsewhere, the Uefa has announced that it will release 236.5 million euros (£ 206.3 million) for its member associations. The money comes from the HatTrick fund of the governing body and is generally reserved for “investment, education and knowledge sharing”. Uefa President Aleksander Ceferin said that due to the “unprecedented challenge” of Covid-19, these restrictions should be lifted.