The Premier League has been given the go-ahead to move to phase two of the league’s potential restart, the government having approved plans for a return to full contact training.
Public health officials and medical officers have contributed to the guidelines which hope to act as the next step towards the return of professional sport next month, with managers and players set to meet with the Premier League to discuss the phase two protocols tomorrow, ahead of a vote on whether to move forward with the plans on Wednesday.
Top flight sides returned to training in last week, though initial sessions have been in small, socially distanced groups and for limited periods of time. The latest proposals will now allow elite athletes to return to close-contact training within a two-metre distance, in plans which will accelerate the prospect of the Premier League returning in mid-June.
Stated in the official advice from the government, as per Sky Sports, the guidelines state that: “Stage Two training can be described as the resumption of close contact (interaction within the two-metre social distancing boundary) training where pairs, small groups and/or teams will be able to interact in much closer contact (e.g. close quarters coaching, combat sports sparring, teams sports tackling, technical equipment sharing, etc).”
The new guidance also addresses the issue of player welfare, with several leading names – notably Watford captain Troy Deeney and Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante – having already opted against a return to training amid health concerns, even in the non-contact stage.
The decision of both players has been met with the full support of their respective clubs, and the latest guidance has made it clear that any athlete expressing concerns should be clear to opt-out of any return.
“All athletes and staff should be clear on their route to ‘opt out’ of the stage-two training environment at any time, without any resulting discrimination not associated with the potential natural competitive impact resulting from any loss of training time.”
The guidelines also state that the new measures will only be allowed if clubs “have the appropriate carefully controlled medical conditions in place”, though the latest news is a hugely positive step towards a return for the Premier League with a restart date widely predicted for June 19.
Mass testing for Covid-19 will also continue today and tomorrow as clubs prepare to return to contact training, two further positive tests recorded on Saturday to take the total to eight from 1,744 tests conducted in the first two rounds.