Premier League players will be able to take part in small-group training sessions from Tuesday afternoon after a vote on the issue today.
The motion was passed unanimously at a shareholders’ meeting as ‘Project Restart’ begins to gather momentum.
Squads will still have to observe social distancing rules, however, while contact training is not yet allowed.
This first tentative step towards a return to training has been agreed after consultation with players, managers, club doctors, independent experts and the Government, with further discussion to take place between those parties – and the unions – regarding full-contact training.
Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce was interviewed soon after the announcement broke, explaining how phase one of the protocol will work:
In phase one we’re allowed to train four to five people on one pitch, so basically a player has a quarter of a pitch to work within, so social distancing is not a problem. We’ll train with eight to ten at a time on two separate pitches.
They will all arrive at the training ground but not go [inside]. They will not eat in the canteen. They will not be treated by a physio. They will all be in their gear, dressed to basically get out of their car and walk straight up to the training pitch itself.
Everything is in place in the safety aspect. I’ve got no issues and I can tell the supporters, the players and the staff, that we are as safe as we possibly can be.
We’re all in the dark over the next step because we all understand that this virus isn’t going to go away just like that – it’s going to hang around a bit, but I think with the protocols in place we’ll do everything we possibly can to get up and running again.
That was the only real line to come out of this morning’s meeting, with a vote on the resumption of the 2019/20 campaign still yet to happen.
UEFA requires a decision from their member leagues on whether they want to complete or cancel their respective seasons by May 25, however, so we look likely to get further information as the week progresses.
The Premier League’s full statement reads as follows:
Premier League Shareholders today voted unanimously to return to small-group training from tomorrow afternoon, the first step towards restarting the Premier League, when safe to do so.
Step One of the Return to Training Protocol enables squads to train while maintaining social distancing. Contact training is not yet permitted.
This first stage has been agreed in consultation with players, managers, Premier League club doctors, independent experts and the Government.
Strict medical protocols of the highest standard will ensure everyone returns to training in the safest environment possible.
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.
Full consultation will now continue with players, managers, clubs, the PFA and LMA as protocols for full-contact training are developed.