The English Premier League paces itself towards a structured restart for football routine
By James Braham
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 5 of VARSITY News.
On Monday, May 18th, the English Premier League took one step closer in attaining a foothold on what the future of the league will look like. This comes as a result of Covid-19 effects, stagnating the league for the last 2 months. But what does this mean for the remainder of the footballing season? What is ‘Project Restart’?
Project Restart is an initiative which analyses the pros and cons of restarting the Premier League structural routine, with regards to what actions would need to be implemented in conjuncture with Covid-19 regulations. It has been over two months without football for Premier League clubs and fans. On Monday, after a virtual ‘Project Restart’ meeting with club representatives, it was decided that clubs would start non-contact training in small groups (no more than five players) from Tuesday – May 19th. Additionally, it was agreed that training would be no longer than 75 minutes and that social distancing protocols would be under strict regulation.
Before looking at actual fixtures taking place behind closed doors, the fixation at the moment is on training routines. The league’s director of football, Richard Garlick, has stated that inspectors will be present at each training ground. As a result, he indicated that “this will enable us to give confidence that protocols are being complied with”. With discussions of creating their own independent audit inspection team, is it safe to say that players and staff will be in ‘safe hands’ with regards to limiting the risk of contracting the virus?
According to Goal, 748 tests were conducted on Sunday and Monday for staff and players. Out of these, six individuals between three teams have tested positive for the virus. The names have not been identified for personal reasons. What is more, three Brighton players tested positive for the virus earlier this month. Since the news became public, Brighton’s chief executive, Paul Barber, outlined his concern on ‘Project Restart’. He wanted to know what the physical measures would be if the league were to resume, especially if players and staff are still testing positive for Covid-19.
One thing is for certain, the testing of players and staff will be under strict supervision. Steve Bruce, Newcastle manager, has emphasised his view – “I must stress that phase one looks as if it’s as safe as it can be”. Phase one consists of testing players and staff for the possibility of progressive small-group training measures. Additionally, The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) has announced their stance on the matter, “We have been assured of the intentions of all that there would be no resumption unless guarantees of safety could be given to the players,” said PFA deputy chief executive Bobby Barnes. Their interests lie with what is best for the players, so if a player doesn’t feel safe to train, they have every right not to if the safety measures are not suited to the current situation.
The last game was played on March 9th – Leicester City vs Aston Villa. Fans, players, staff and many more miss the kick of a football. Plans for phase two to be implemented are set for June, which consists of players training in larger groups before they can make the jump to contact training.
With heavy efforts to complete the 2019/2020 season – of which, remains 92 games – is it ethical and is it possible?