MANCHESTER, England (AP) – The Premier League will seek to allay players’ concerns about health risks as the government prepares to release protocols allowing a phased resumption of contact training in the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday set out how elite sports could resume in June if there is not a new spike in COVID-19 infections. The government is planning to release a strategy later this week on the road map to players being allowed to resume group training even as social distancing is being encouraged in wider society.
â€œItâ€™s about the building blocks – how long before we can go back into full contact training?â€ Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told reporters. “It does depend on what sort of contact because obviously youâ€™re trying to ensure the players keep themselves safe even during that contact training situation and that will have to be dealt with on a case by case basis.â€
It is two months since the last games were played before the league was suspended during the pandemic.
â€œOne thing is for sure,” Masters said. “All clubs will have to be safe and secure in the knowledge that their players are going to be fit before a decision on going back on the pitch is taken, given that they have had such a long lay-off.
“We have talked about four weeks of training but havenâ€™t agreed yet as we havenâ€™t agreed to go back to training.â€
Masters said players will be consulted about how a safe environment can be created at training and then games.
â€œIt is right that they will have concerns and questions and we need to hear those first,â€ Masters said.
Manchester City and England forward Raheem Sterling has broader concerns.
â€œThe moment we do go back we need to make sure itâ€™s at a moment where itâ€™s not just for footballing reasons, itâ€™s safe for not just us footballers but the whole medical staff, referees,â€ Sterling said on his YouTube channel. “I donâ€™t know how thatâ€™s going to work. I feel like once that side of the peopleâ€™s safety and the playerâ€™s safety is secured and their well-being is being looked after, then thatâ€™s the right time to go back in.
“Until then, Iâ€™m â€¦ kind of reserved and thinking what the worst outcome could be, but at the same time looking forward to it.â€
Players and coaches will be regularly tested at training venues for COVID-19. Masters does not envisage full squads having to self-isolate if there is a situation like at Dynamo Dresden last week. Two players at the German second division side tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing the entire squad, coaching and supervisory staff to enter 14 days of quarantine at home.
â€œIf a player tests positive,â€ Masters said, â€œproviding he has been socially distanced in the protocols, he would be isolated for a period but there would be no need for the rest of the group to be.”
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports