Football: English Premier League clubs to resume training from May 19 in small groups

Premier League clubs will return to training on Tuesday after agreeing to allow "small group" sessions to begin, the first step on the road to a return to competitive action.
Clubs unanimously voted to allow players to start socially distanced training.
Clubs unanimously voted to allow players to start socially distanced training.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP, REUTERS) - Premier League clubs will return to training in small groups from Tuesday (May 19) 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."

The league has set June 12 as a tentative date for a restart of action but chief executive Richard Masters said they were aware they would need to be flexible.

“We have been focused on this staging post, it’s not a firm commitment, for June 12. What we are able to do today is basically to move forward on small group training,” he told reporters on a conference call.

“Next week we are going to be discussing full contact training protocols.

“Once you know when you can start full contact training, and we’ve had a proper discussion with clubs about how much is required to create the fitness levels before they can start playing, we are then in a position to be able to confirm when the season start is.

“What we don’t want to do is continually move that start date so we haven’t changed it. We need to be flexible and acknowledge we are in a step-by-step process,” he added.

Mark Gillett, the Premier League’s medical adviser, said it was aware of the need for preparation time.

“Safety is the key thing running through all the measures we’re putting in place. I spend a lot of my time in club football, so I do understand the need for football-specific training,” he said.

“We will do everything possible to try and ensure that clubs get enough time to try and prepare in the best way possible, to keep them safe during games.”