Premier League clubs have been given the green light to resume full-contact training again.
This came in the form of new UK government guidelines published on Monday, which allows sports teams to train in large groups.
The advice encourages beginning with “clusters” of two or three athletes, before moving onto larger groups of between four and 12 and, eventually, full-team training.
This guidance is reported to be a subject for discussion by the Premier League on Wednesday.
The update comes as part of the government’s phase two of easing lockdown measures.
“Stage Two training can be described as the resumption of close-contact [interaction within the two-metre social-distancing boundary] training where pairs, small groups and/or teams will be able to interact in much closer contact [e.g. close quarters coaching, combat sports sparring, teams sports tackling, technical equipment sharing, etc]. The progression of training into Stage Two is vital to prepare fully for the return of competitive sporting fixtures in many sports. Close-contact training is required to replicate match formations and conditions, so that the sport-specific demands can be placed on the body, mind and senses. Close-contact training develops the sport-specific fitness which is an essential element for player safety and a reduced risk of injury during competition. It is anticipated that engaging in this type of training would start with smaller ‘clusters’ of 2-3 athletes and eventually progress to larger groups of 4-12 athletes, and ultimately full-team training, without social distancing possible at all times. Under Stage Two conditions, as per Stage One, social distancing will continue to be the expectation at all other times aside from technical training.” – Government advice
The news comes after another round of coronavirus tests were undertaken last week.
Between Tuesday and Friday, a further 996 players and club staff were tested, with just two returning positive results.
One of these was revealed to be an unnamed Bournemouth player, while the other was on the playing staff at another unidentified Premier League club.
Both of these individuals are now self-isolating for seven days.
“Following strict adherence to the Premier League’s return to training regulations, the club’s training ground remains a safe working environment for players and backroom staff, who will continue to be tested for Covid-19 twice per week.” – Bournemouth statement
That brings the total of positive tests up to eight after six cases were confirmed from the previous batch of 748 tests carried out last week.
While most of these were kept anonymous, it was revealed that one of these was Watford defender Adrian Mariappa (£4.2m), while two members of the club staff were also among that number.
As the absence of the Premier League continues, the organisation’s chief executive Richard Masters remains “confident” the restart will take place in June.
“There is some momentum. We’ve taken the first step. It’s great for everybody, including the fans, to see our players back on the training ground.” – Richard Masters
Meanwhile, there are still questions over unanimity among players about the right time to resume training and competitive Premier League action.
Troy Deeney (£6.2m) did not train with his Watford team-mates last week in light of concerns for his five-month-old son, who suffers from breathing problems.
Furthermore, N’Golo Kante (£5.0m) has been given permission to miss Chelsea training amid fears over coronavirus, the player reportedly open to missing the remainder of the 2019/20 season if it does resume this summer.
However, there have been a number of players who were previously unlikely to make appearances again this season, making training returns.
Marcus Rashford (£8.8m), Harry Kane (£10.8m), Steven Bergwijn (£7.4m) and Son Heung-min (£9.7m) were among the names who have been training last few days following previously long-term injuries.
Tammy Abraham (£7.5m), Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.2m) and Christian Pulisic (£6.9m) were spotted at Chelsea’s training ground too, all of whom were either injured or lacking in match-fitness when the Premier League was suspended.