Premier League aims for May 18 training return as club doctors express concerns over Project Restart

The Premier League is targeting a return to training in small groups from May 18, but four club doctors have expressed reservations about the league’s Project Restart proposal.

Project Restart protocols state that all players and staff must be tested twice in one week prior to entering the training ground for small group training and the Premier League is looking to organise their own drive-through testing centres, away from club’s training grounds.

The Premier League presented its proposals to all 20 clubs last week and asked doctors for any concerns and feedback.

  • Venues dilemma for PL as government seeks national ‘lift’
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  • Project Restart: Key PL meeting moved to Monday

Four doctors have since sent in questions which will be answered at the league’s next shareholders meeting on Monday, a day after the UK government gives an update on lockdown restrictions.

The proposals have been drafted by Premier League medical advisor Dr Mark Gillett, following close consultation with other European leagues including La Liga in Spain and Bundesliga in Germany.

Testing will only be done on the understanding it does not compromise the testing of key workers during the coronavirus pandemic and will be paid for by the Premier League and privately sourced, so it does not take any resources from public health needs.

Sky Sports News has been told a number of club doctors were involved in drafting the plan with Dr Gillett, and representatives from all 20 clubs discussed draft medical protocols during a conference call on April 25.

The issue of when football can safely resume has divided the opinion of the game’s most senior medical officers.

Dr Michel D’Hooghe, chairman of FIFA’s medical committee, told Sky Sports News last week: “The world is not ready for competitive football. I hope this can change very quickly. Today you need more patience.”

D’Hooghe said the present situation was the most “dramatic” since the Second World War and does not personally want football to resume until at least September 1.

Professor Tim Meyer, chairman of UEFA’s medical committee, said: “All football organisations which are planning the restart of their competitions will produce comprehensive dictating sanitary and operational conditions ensuring that the health of those involved in the games is protected and the integrity of public policy is preserved.

“Under these conditions and in full respect of local legislation, it is definitely possible to plan the restart of the competitions suspended during the 2019/20 season.”

Premier League clubs remain committed to finishing the 2019/20 season, but this will only be possible if 8-10 neutral venues are used to play the remaining fixtures.

That is considered the most appropriate number of venues that will be granted safety certificates (Sports Grounds Safety Authority) and police approval.

Carra: Safety is paramount

Jamie Carragher, speaking on The Football Show, said he understood potential fears and insisted robust questions should be asked around player safety.

“Families, children, players, managers are watching the news and seeing the death toll go up. It’s a huge fear for every family up and down the country.

“Footballers are no different; they should rightly ask serious questions about how safe it is to come back. That has to be the most important thing.

“There’s been lots of talk about the financial side and that’s a huge part of it – there are so many businesses around the country who will possibly go out of business unfortunately and we certainly don’t want to see football clubs go the same way – but the most important thing is the safety of everyone involved.”

Graeme Souness added: “The concerns of players, I’d think, would be around other members of their family. You couldn’t force them to play at this time. It’s a difficult one – we’re in uncharted waters – but players will have to trust in their doctors.”

Project Restart: Key PL meeting moved to Monday

Premier League shareholders had planned to meet on Friday after the government update but will now take time to understand the Prime Minister’s latest advisory on lockdown and social distancing ahead of their meeting on Monday.

The new date will give the Premier League and its clubs time to consider government plans more fully. Clubs remain hopeful they will be able to begin training in the third week in May, ahead of a return to match action potentially in the middle of June.

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