Another step towards the resumption of the 2019-20 season was approved on Monday by the 20 clubs in the league, which voted unanimously by a medical protocol which will allow players to resume training from Tuesday after- noon, but with a physical distance. A second crucial protocol on contact training is expected to be submitted to the clubs at two meetings next week. The third stage would see the matches resume in camera.
The date of the very first game seems to have been pushed back, possibly in late June, which would mean a late mid-August, but after the Bundesliga’s successful relaunch last weekend, Premier League plans are picking up speed.
Whenever this revival occurs, however, fans will still be out of the field for some time after, according to league medical advisor Mark Gillett, who has been involved in talks with the digital, culture, media and sports.
“I was part of the DCMS group [directing the return of elite sport] with a very high level of medical contribution from Public Health England and the Department of the Chief Physician, “he said. “They made it very clear that the social situation, the public health situation will not change in the next six to 12 months. It is important that people understand this. “
When asked to confirm that the league expects fans to go missing next season, league general manager Richard Masters said, “We have to plan for all of the contingencies. “
Monday’s general meeting of shareholders saw agreement on a plan in which “safety in the working environment” was essential, Gillett said. This would allow players to resume training in small groups, but would be required to maintain physical distance at all times. Their cars would be parked at three bays and the nutritional supplements left by the driver’s door for collection. The common areas of the training grounds would be closed and showers prohibited. Training sessions would be limited to a maximum of 75 minutes.
These steps were the easy part. The difficulties begin with contact training and the Masters have confirmed that a frenetic period will follow during which the drafts of a second set of protocols will be completed, shared with the players and managers, then debated and probably voted by clubs.
“We have not yet spoken to players or even clubs about a return to contact training, in terms of the precise details of the protocols,” he said. “We anticipate that we will be able to do it within the week to 10 days. “
Regarding concerns about the increased risk to black, Asian and minority Covid-19 players, Gillett said the league will monitor the situation. “We will do our utmost to remedy it … as new information becomes available,” he said. “But the risk in young fit athletes is still very low and I think that is an important factor. “
If the contact training was approved, the work would quickly move on to a third step: the matches themselves. Gillett admitted that current Public Health England advice could force players to quarantine 14 days before any game. Meanwhile, Masters confirmed that discussions are continuing with police and the government at the sites, but noted that there were no fan-caused issues outside the Bundesliga.
“It was a good start,” Masters said of the return of German football and the Premier League was following closely behind. The masters said they plan to provide a different TV product, however, with a task force generating ideas on how to create an atmosphere despite the empty ground.
Even if any coverage is on television, clubs should pay broadcasters a rebate on their fees, although many oppose it. “They appreciate the situation football is in,” Masters said of Sky and BT. “We also appreciate the situation they face.”
Masters was less accommodating about the future of the football pyramid. The EFL called on the Premier League to provide a bailout package for the stricken lower league clubs, a call apparently backed by the government last week. But Masters, faced with its own financial crisis, did not offer colleagues much hope of bailout.
“If we are able to play our games and start the 2020-21 season safely, we will have hopefully managed to some extent the financial problems facing the Premier League,” he said. declared. “But there will always be significant losses in terms of central revenue and for Premier League clubs due to the loss of revenue on match day. So it’s a complicated situation, but we want to continue to support the EFL and respect our community commitments. “
He also expressed his hope that Liverpool can have a trophy presentation if the end of the season leads to its first title in 30 years.
“If possible, yes [we will hold one]Said Masters. “We would like to have a trophy presentation to give players and staff the time when they worked so hard.
“We would try to do it unless it is not possible due to security concerns. We are focused on the end of the 2019-2020 season, but we also need to plan for all eventualities. “