London, United Kingdom | AFP | Premier League clubs will return to training in small groups from Tuesday after the latest stage of “Project Restart” was approved on Monday.
Clubs unanimously voted to allow players to start socially distanced training in a bid to meet the Premier League’s mid-June date to resume the season.
Contact training is not permitted at this stage and corner flags, balls, cones, goalposts, playing surfaces and other equipment will be disinfected after each session.
Testing for the coronavirus has taken place at Premier League clubs over the last few days and will continue throughout the training period.
“Strict medical protocols of the highest standard will ensure everyone returns to training in the safest environment possible,” a Premier League statement said.
“The health and well-being of all participants is the Premier League’s priority, and the safe return to training is a step-by-step process.
“Full consultation will now continue with players, managers, clubs, the PFA and LMA as protocols for full-contact training are developed.”
The training protocols were presented to players and managers last week before being rubber-stamped during Monday’s video conference call.
Other rules in phase one include players not travelling with anyone to or from training, while the use of public transport and team vehicles is banned.
Newcastle were one of the first top-flight teams to issue confirmation that players had been tested at their training ground.
The club said players would return on Tuesday, by which time all test results would be known.
Players will be asked to use an app on a daily basis to record any symptoms.
“It’s been a really difficult time, but I hope with the news that phase one is about to start,” Newcastle manager Steve Bruce said.
“I must stress that phase one looks as if it’s as safe as it can be. I’m sure everyone will be delighted that we’re trying to make that effort.
“In phase one we’re allowed to train four to five people on one pitch, so basically a player has a quarter of a pitch to work within, so social distancing is not a problem. We’ll train with eight to 10 at a time on two separate pitches.
“Everything is in place in the safety aspect. I’ve got no issues and I can tell the supporters the players and the staff are as safe as we possibly can be.”
– ‘Making good progress’ –
The resumption of Germany’s Bundesliga over the weekend has raised expectations that the Premier League can follow suit.
But some Premier League players remain concerned over returning to work while the virus is still uncontained, with Britain one of the countries worst hit by the crisis.
Speaking to Good Morning Britain on Monday, Watford captain Troy Deeney said: “Phase one is social distancing individual training with a coach. That’s no problem, that’s like going to the park.
“Phase two will be next week six days of training, three to six people training together with contact and then six days after that you’re going into 11 versus 11 and you can’t social distance with 11 verus 11.
“I would say 98 per cent (of players) are very much aware that phase one is very good, I would say 65-70 per cent of people are concerned with phase two. I’d say even higher after that.”
With the Premier League suspended since March 13 because of the pandemic, the green light for training came just hours after Britain’s Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he was hopeful the top-flight could resume in June.
“I had some very constructive discussions on Thursday with the FA, the EFL (English Football League) and the Premier League,” Dowden told Sky News.
“We are working hard with them to try and get it back, aiming for mid-June, but the number one test is public safety.
“If we can sort that out then we will look to resume by mid-June. We’re making good progress.”