(THE GUARDIAN) - The English Premier League is ready to accept the inevitable over the coronavirus pandemic and tell its footballers 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.
Complete rest then a mini pre-season before games start again would certainly be a simpler instruction to follow and, as Frank Lampard said, it has been difficult monitoring 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 the players for no reason."
Most players were sent home from their clubs with tailored programmes for general fitness but Jurgen Klopp would have liked to have been able to give a more detailed timetable.
"At our last meeting nobody knew exactly how long it would go on, and nobody still knows," said the Liverpool manager, whose team are just two wins away from their first top-flight title in 30 years.
"All we could try and do was make sure everything was sorted in our little space as much as we could and organise what we could for the boys. That's what we did in a very short time, then we sent the boys home, went home ourselves, and here we are still."