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.
The government is strongly considering allowing clubs to then step up training in early June with a view to playing behind closed doors matches later that month. It follows Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s claim the Premier League’s return would “lift the nation”.
Project Restart protocols state 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.
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.
A guideline document of recommendations agreed by a working group of chief medical officers (CMOs) from a range of professional sports, including football, will be sent to government for review when and if lockdown measures are amended.
CMO’s representing football, rugby, cricket, racing, Olympic and Paralympic sport along with officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the deputy chief medical officer are meeting on Wednesday to discuss how to safely implement return-to-training proposals following their first virtual meeting last Friday.
The working group has informally discussed practicalities of a return to sport and medical issues in sub-working groups, with feedback welcomed.
Issues raised by cross-sport working group on a possible return to action
How many temperature checking monitors are needed?
Would a player or athlete have temperature tested if they leave/return training facility on same day more than once?
Who and how many non-sporting staff are allowed at training facilities?
What would be the industry standard guide on the cleanliness of wet areas such as pools?
Is there enough equipment (PPE, disinfectant, cleaning products)?
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.