EPL teams approve contact training as players’ fears linger

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND (AP) — The Premier League is on course to restart next month after clubs approved plans on Wednesday to resume contact training even as some players are concerned about taking to the field again during the coronavirus pandemic.

The vote by the 20 clubs came after gaining clearance from the government for players to work together as a squad as restrictions are eased across England.

Players and staff members at clubs are being checked twice a week for COVID-19. Four people from three clubs tested positive from tests on 1,008 players and staff on Monday and Tuesday.

The clubs held another conference call yesterday to discuss plans to resume the season in the second half of June, including the scheduling of games that will all be closed to fans. The location of matches is still to be resolved after clubs rejected proposals for all fixtures to be played in neutral venues.

Clubs are also discussing the potential need to refund broadcasters USD400 million because of the disruption to the season and changes to the product if the league resumes.

The English Premier League trophy. PHOTO: AP

There are still contingencies being formulated if there is a need to abandon the season, which was suspended in March with Liverpool leading by 25 points with nine games remaining.

For now, the teams are trying to get the players match fit after an unprecedented time away from the sport.

After working in smaller groups and avoiding contact since training resumed last week, players can now enter the next phase to step up preparations for games. The protocols still acknowledge the social distancing required in wider society.

“Squads are now able to train as a group and engage in tackling while minimising any unnecessary close contact,” the Premier League said in a statement.

Germany’s top division restarted on May 16 and Spain has government approval for games after June 8. England’s resumption will only come later in the month.