Coronavirus pandemic

Home training may be benched

English Premier League clubs like Arsenal have closed their training centres and the footballers, who were training at home, could be taking a virus-enforced break soon.
English Premier League clubs like Arsenal have closed their training centres and the footballers, who were training at home, could be taking a virus-enforced break soon.PHOTO: REUTERS

Intense regimens could harm EPL players without definite restart date

LONDON • The English Premier League is ready to accept the inevitable over the coronavirus pandemic and tell the players to take a break from training, as doubts increase over the likelihood of restarting the season in a month's time.

Clubs have been attempting to keep their players fully fit for a possible resumption of games after April 30.

But even if the plan to play matches behind closed doors goes ahead, it seems that early May will be too soon.

Uncertainty remains over whether the season will be completed, but anything running into June would eat into the traditional holiday break for footballers as well as compromising preparations for the following season.

With no conceivable action for at least a month, and every possibility of the layoff lasting longer, players are expected to be told to regard the present hiatus as an enforced rest before intensive training can resume once a definite restart date is announced.

In effect, the game will take its annual holiday a few months early, though without the possibility of players jetting off to luxury destinations around the world in the usual manner.

Like the rest of the population, footballers are being advised to stay in their own homes.

While a more normal close-season break might be possible if the present campaign can be concluded before the end of June, for the moment, it is being acknowledged that more harm than good might result from players following high-level training regimes at home with no resumption date in sight.

A complete rest before games start again would certainly be a simpler instruction to follow and, as Frank Lampard has revealed, clubs are finding it difficult to monitor their players' efforts when they are training at home due to physical-distancing measures.

"We keep looking at it, saying, 'Well, how do we train'?" the Chelsea manager said.

"The last thing I want to do at the moment when the players are in this position, when we don't know when the games are going to be, is to try and push and push and push them for no reason."

To compound matters, the players are understood to be concerned at putting their health, and their families' health, at risk by returning to work while the crisis continues.

Their representatives are also said to be exploring whether insurance policies could be declared null and void should their clients contract a potentially career-threatening illness after playing again, despite being aware of the risks.

The Premier League also must take into account that players may need "a short" pre-season to readjust to top-flight football once the green light is given to resume play, extending the restart date.

Chelsea forward Pedro told the club website on Saturday it was difficult to gauge the impact of the suspension, which has been in place since the second week of March.

But he revealed that as his teammates have been kept apart, it has been "difficult to get match fit".

The next Premier League stakeholders' meeting is scheduled for Friday, and while the clubs are not facing the same financial pressure as other European leagues, it was acknowledged that wage deferrals could come into play should the season remain suspended for several more months.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2020, with the headline 'Home training may be benched'. Print Edition | Subscribe