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Premiership re-start faces ‘insurmountable’ challenges

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Premiership re-start faces ‘insurmountable’ challenges

Liverpool Manager Jungen Klopp

Stakeholders in the English Premiership football competition are struggling to come up with a plan they can sell to clubs and players to enable them resume training and also play out the remainder of the 92 games of the competition. But the implications are proving too rigid and almost impractical.

Various media outlets in the UK have reported that the government is encouraging clubs to play the rest of the games to avoid any possibility of numerous law suits that would result from the eventuality of failure to complete the league.

The UK’s push for resumption of soccer comes after the cancellation of the French league.

No toilets for players!

But the plans are facing a mountain of challenges that make it almost impossible to take them to fruition. They would for example require up to 350 tests being carried out before every game is played, quarantine measures for thousands of players for more than a month, and refusal for players to use the toilet, according to the Daily Mail.

The BBC has reported that a conference call was hosted yesterday May 1, by culture secretary Oliver Dowden, involving medical experts from several sports organisations, government and Public Health England, about “stepping up planning” for sport’s eventual return.

Although UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared that the country has passed the Peak of the outbreak, where new infections are no longer rising, social distancing measures will only be be relaxed gradually and on expert doctors’ advice. Still, the number of new infections remain higher than when the league was suspended on March 13.

This means that resuming any sports activities will be subjected to strict conditions;

According to the BBC, players will be tested for coronavirus twice a week and would be screened for symptoms every day.

Also players will be asked to arrive at training grounds in full kit and wear masks at all times.
They must not shower or eat on the premises. If clubs want to provide players with food, it must be delivered as a takeaway to players’ cars.
Only essential medical treatment would be allowed, with all medical staff in full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
All meetings and reviews must take place virtually and off-site. This means that players would not interact with each other or with the manager, in a dressing room.

Besides practising with face masks on, the games will be staged at neutral grounds (where neither of the competing sides plays at home), in order to avoid people gathering and therefore played behind closed doors. Some clubs have protected this already, according to Daily mail.

Consultations are still needed between the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), the League Managers’ Association (LMA), players and managers are key to this process and will be further consulted, project restart to ensure buy-in.

Several sports personalities have openly spoken out against the Project Restart including former Manchester Star Garry Neville and Liverpool city mayor Joe Anderson.

The Daily Mail has reported that before the government lifts social distancing measures, all players and club staff would need to be quarantined and separated from rest of society to keep players, families and wider society safe.

Jonathan Ball, a professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, told Daily Mail that: “Once you are sure none of those people have Covid, you can isolate them from the rest of society, make sure they don’t come into contact with anybody who has not been tested and make sure anybody new coming into that environment is clean. Then you could keep those players Covid-free for however many days you need.”

So in theory it’s possible, but whether it’s practical is a different matter. How are you going to achieve it? That’s the question.’

Prof. Ball argues: “We are being lulled into a false sense of security because we are seeing fewer deaths than before, but the numbers are still higher than when we saw the sudden increase that led to lockdown.’

The earliest proposed start date for Premier League football behind closed doors is June 6, which is likely to be revised if the Government extend the lockdown measures.

77% of Britons,according to a YouGov poll, support extension of the lockdown. But the UK government, it is believed, resuming the league would lift the moods of the people, besides reducing the cost of suits.

Experts say that fans will only be allowed to return to matches if a vaccine has been found. This means that the Premiership faces a future of fan-less games in the 2020-21 campaign.

According to estimates, this will cost Arsenal and Manchester up to 100m pounds in Match day revenue.

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