Project Restart: Contact Training Close to Approval, Neutral Venues an Option Again & More

Tom Gott
May 25, 2020, 9:51 AM GMT+1
The Nike Premier League Match Ball
The Nike Premier League Match Ball / Visionhaus/Getty Images

We're getting there. Slowly but surely, the Premier League is inching ever closer to a return.

Clubs are all back in basic training, with coronavirus tests being thrown around left, right and centre to try and ensure things are as safe as possible for everyone involved. Things are moving in the right direction.

Let's take a look at the latest on Project Restart.

'Phase 2' Guidelines to Permit Contact Training

As of now, teams are restricted to non-contact training in small groups, but the government have now released their guidelines for 'phase two' of a return to normality which would permit contact training once more.

As noted by Sky Sports News, teams will meet on Wednesday to vote on whether they want to return to contact training and begin building up the required match fitness to return to competitive action somewhere down the line.

'Phase three', which is expected to be unveiled in June, will focus on bringing competitive sports back, but any plans would need to be approved by each of the 20 Premier League sides before they are put into action.

Players 'Desperate' to Resume Contact Training

Chelsea FC v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Chelsea FC v Crystal Palace - Premier League / Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Clubs will vote on behalf of their players, but Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend has insisted he does not believe there will be any objections from the footballers themselves.

"Speaking to the boys we're desperate to get back to normality and contact training," Townsend told Sky Sports. "At the start of the week you're worried about being near other players but as the days go on you get more and more comfortable with each positive test.

"If it was two people from the same club (who had tested positive at different times) you'd start to ask questions about how it had spread around the training ground. But the fact it's at two different clubs and they've kept it from spreading shows that we're in the safest workplace in the country and it gives us confidence to move on to the next phase of testing."

Neutral Venues Back on the Agenda

The UK's Capital Adjusts To Life Under The Coronavirus Pandemic
The UK's Capital Adjusts To Life Under The Coronavirus Pandemic / Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The idea of playing the remainder of the season at neutral venues was scrapped a few weeks ago, but the Daily Mail note that clubs will be given one last chance to approve the plans at the upcoming meeting.

This latest proposal will allow a mixture of normal and neutral grounds, largely focused on helping police control any crowds outside the stadiums.

Any 'high-risk fixtures', such as Liverpool's upcoming Merseyside derby against Everton, could be moved away from the city in an attempt to keep things as calm as possible and avoid any potential gathering of supporters.

Previous Behind-Closed-Doors Game Policed 'Comfortably'

Arsenal FC v West Ham United - Premier League
Arsenal FC v West Ham United - Premier League / Julian Finney/Getty Images

For the majority of fixtures, policing the games is not expected to be a problem, and former Met Police stadium commander Doug Hopkis told Sky Sports News that they did not encounter any issues when policing a game behind closed doors...back in 1980.

The game in question? A Cup Winners' Cup tie between West Ham and Real Madrid's B team. Hardly the same sort of thing, is it?

Clubs Pushing for 26 June Restart

Nike Premier League Strike Football
Nike Premier League Strike Football / Visionhaus/Getty Images

The potential restart date continues to be pushed back. 12 June is expected to be met by fierce resistance, and The Sun note that 19 June is still seen as too early in the eyes of many.

The idea of returning to action on 26 June is now said to be 'gathering momentum', with players clearly eager to undergo as much contact training as possible before they throw themselves back into action.

'Many Months' Before Fans Can Return

Manchester United v Watford FC - Premier League
Manchester United v Watford FC - Premier League / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Dr Peter Chin-Hong has warned Sky Sports that fans should not expect to be allowed back in stadiums until a vaccine for coronavirus is found.

"Unfortunately it will be very challenging to have sport in the way we used to know it, I know people are trying to be creative but it's difficult to see how you can keep the six-foot circumference distance," he said. "Remember it's not just six feet to the side, it's six feet in front and behind.

"Normally this virus travels in heavy droplets, about three feet in distance around a person, but there are modifying factors with regards to a stadium setting. First of all, shouting. Shouting can give the virus superpowers we call aerosol, it can project much further, up to 12 feet.

"People in a stadium are also likely to be shouting for hours unlike passing someone for a few seconds in the street, therefore a small risk, when you multiply it by duration of time, all of a sudden becomes not inconsequential."

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