English Premier League (EPL) clubs have been given the green light to train after agreeing to allow “small group” sessions to begin.
This will only come into full effect after the results from the first round of Covid-19 testing, conducted on Sunday and Monday, come back today. But how safe are the players from infection?
Measures In Place
Safety measures will be in place, and that include tents where temperature checks will be conducted, strict hygiene criteria, no canteens and no showers. A maximum of five players will be allowed per pitch with tackling forbidden.
Training will last for no more than 75 minutes for any single player, and with groups of a maximum of five players in each mini-session. Players will be asked to leave three parking spaces between their vehicles and any other at the training ground, and arrive in their training kit. There will be no access to communal areas such as canteens or physio rooms.
Players will be tested twice a week and are being asked to provide written approval that they have received and understood the club’s Covid-19 policy.
But all these precautions will be out the window when full contact training comes into play.
Contact Play Is Risky
While the FA is taking the first step to get the ball rolling, a full consultation will now continue with players, managers, clubs, the PFA and LMA as protocols for full-contact training are developed.
It was recognised that these stages will prove to be difficult, as the EPL had previously set June 12 as a possible return date for matches. This however, could be pushed back due to obvious reasons – it may be too soon for the country to allow a full contact sport to return, considering the rate of infection in the community.
Simply put, there is no such thing as social distancing when two teams are playing football. So the question is this: what happens if a player were to get infected with Covid-19 after play resumes?
While this should already be a major point of discussion among the powers that be, no one else seems to be concerned about this… yet! This possible scenario is further pushed into the back of our minds when the Bundesliga resumed this past weekend without any hiccups.
But let’s imagine this: the EPL returns on June 12 with Everton taking on Liverpool and after 90 minutes of football, one of the players involved in that game tests positive for Covid-19 a few days later. What happens then?
Here are some possible scenarios that could play out:
All the people involved in that match – players, officials, camera crew and ground staff – will be quarantined for two weeks. This means that Everton and Liverpool shouldn’t be allowed to play at least two matches with their full team.
An option will be for them to field their reserves who were not present for the fixture in question for the upcoming matches, provided there are enough men and they are permitted (and willing to) replace their colleagues amid the coronavirus scare.
In the situation where both teams cannot fulfill the requirements of the fixtures, will the FA allow the opponents to win via walkover and take the free 3 points? This sounds like a fair trade-off, considering that the authorities are adamant to complete the season.
However, the FA could also postpone those matches and cause the schedule to pile up for the teams affected, or push the end date for the season to a later time, which means that the teams can have ample recovery before playing again.
The worse case scenario would see the authorities grapple the situation with an iron fist and stop the 2019/2020 season entirely. Then the big question here would be how will they close it?
Will the standings be taken as-is when the league stops, which means the champions and relegated teams will be determined? Or will it be voided, so that no one wins or drops to the Championship.
Whatever the future holds for the EPL, only time will tell…