PL stakeholders unanimously back return to training

18 May 2020

Premier League footballers will resume training from tomorrow (19 May), the first step towards resuming the English top division season following the novel coronavirus (Covid-19)-enforced shutdown.

Shareholders voted unanimously in favour of the return to small-group training, which enables squads to train while maintaining social distancing. This has been agreed in consultation with players, managers, club doctors, independent experts and the government.

At this stage, full-contact training - such as tackling - will not be permitted.

A consultation with players, the Professional Footballers Association and the League Managers Association will continue, in order to develop protocols for full-contact play.

The Premier League said strict medical protocols will ensure all players can train in the safest possible environment.

“The health and wellbeing of all participants is the Premier League’s priority, and the safe return to training is a step-by-step process,” the league said.

The Premier League has been suspended since 13 March, originally until 3 April, after a number of players and managers tested positive for Covid-19. The UK government’s measures to ease lockdown make a return before 1 June impossible, though all teams have committed to finishing the season.

As of 13 March, Liverpool topped the league on 82 points, 25 ahead of second-placed Manchester City. Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich City occupy the relegation places.

While football governing bodies in countries such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands have all ended their seasons early, England, Italy and Spain remain set on playing the final games of the 2019-20 campaign. Germany’s Bundesliga, meanwhile, played its first round of fixtures since lockdown over the weekend.

In related news, the Scottish Premier League season has been concluded, with Celtic declared champions for the ninth season in a row, and bottom-placed Heart of Midlothian relegated.

“Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to officially congratulate Celtic on their achievement of winning the Ladbrokes Premiership this season, and also to sincerely commiserate with Hearts on their relegation,” Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) chair Murdoch MacLennan said.

“We would all have rather seen the league season played out on pitches, in stadiums and in front of supporters,” MacLennan continued. “This is not the way anybody involved with Scottish football would have wanted to conclude the league season but, given the grave and unprecedented circumstances that we are facing, the board has agreed that it is the only practical way forward.

He added that government-imposed restrictions and concerns over player safety meant an early end to the season was the only option.

While SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said all clubs were of the “clear and unanimous view” that the season had to end early, Hearts have submitted a resolution to restructure the Scottish leagues, which would see it avoid relegation.

Should this be rejected, it warned that it would pursue legal action, saying the costs of litigation would be far outweighed by the financial impact of relegation.