Virus tests on EPL players ahead of return-to-training talks
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — After watching the Bundesliga resume, English Premier League clubs will try on Monday to agree on protocols to allow a return to training during the coronavirus pandemic.
Teams have already started checking players and coaches for the coronavirus, with a total of 1,600 weekly tests anticipated across the 20 clubs in England’s top division.
With Britain suffering a worse coronavirus outbreak than Germany, the sports shutdown is yet to end and players would have to remain socially distant for now in training. But the Premier League has government backing to pursue restarting games in June if there is no new spike in COVID-19 cases across the country.
Sunday should have been the last day of the season but, instead of Liverpool completing a title triumph, coronavirus testing was taking place at clubs.
Up to 40 players and coaches at each club were due to be tested for the coronavirus across Sunday and Monday. A further wave of testing will take place across the 20 clubs later in the week in a bid to detect infections.
In recent weeks, players have only been carrying out some individual fitness work on fields at some training grounds. But the socially distant team training could start on Tuesday if the protocols are agreed on by executives from the clubs during their latest “Project Restart” conference call on Monday.
Contact training would be prohibited until approval is granted by the government, which has said games could resume in June — without fans in stadiums.
Some players and managers have expressed concern about returning to training since Britain has Europe’s highest virus death toll as well as the most confirmed cases.
“You’d need a full four to five weeks (training), especially if you’re going to go back into competition, when you’re literally paid to win,” Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling said in a YouTube interview with United States captain Megan Rapinoe. “You do need to do that preparation. You can’t just go straight in.”
The aspiration of resuming the league in the week beginning June 8 now appears hard to achieve. Liverpool led the league by 25 points with nine games remaining when the season was paused in March.
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said last week they will assess how the phased return of training goes before they “even think about moving on to the return of competitive football matches. We have to be slow. We have to be measured.”
Britain reported on Sunday that 170 more people have died from the coronavirus, raising its overall death toll to 34,636. It is the lowest daily death toll since the day after the country’s lockdown was announced on March 23, although weekend figures are usually lower because reporting lags when compared with weekdays.
Another 3,142 people in Britain tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the number of total confirmed cases to 243,303.