Premier League return edges closer

Premier League action could return in June despite ongoing fears over the coronavirus pandemic.

Close-contact training across a whole raft of elite sports moved a step nearer after the government published guidelines on how to do it safely. Matches behind closed doors are permissible from June 1 but plans outlined on May 13 initially dealt only with the initial stages of returning to practice.

Now sports minister Nigel Huddleston believes that players and coaches can begin to start ramping things up again to get back to match fitness.

“This new guidance marks the latest phase of a carefully phased return to training process for elite athletes, designed to limit the risk of injury and protect the health and safety of all involved,” he said.

“We are absolutely clear that individual sports must review whether they have the appropriate carefully controlled medical conditions in place before they can proceed, and secure the confidence of athletes, coaches and support staff.

“Given the wide ranging input we have received from medical experts, we believe these pragmatic measures should provide further reassurance that a safe, competitive training environment can be delivered, as we work towards a restart of professional sport behind closed doors when it is safe to do so.”

It means that as well as football’s high-profile Project Restart, other sports can start to introduce close-quarters coaching and tackling in team sports.

The final decision to adopt these government protocols will be the responsibility of the respective sports bodies and clubs, in consultation with athletes, coaches and support staff.

A lot has been made of Premier League action returning, with Crystal Palace star Andros Townsend saying players need to be more trustworthy if contact training is to be introduced.

Any rebels, the Crystal Palace winger said, will be letting down their team-mates.

Over the weekend, one Bournemouth player and one other unnamed top-flight participant tested positive in the second round of tests taken by 996 people in all.

Two members of the Hull City camp were were also positive in the EFL’s first batch of tests on 1,014 Championship players and staff.

All will now self-isolate for seven days and Townsend believes that the biggest threat to football not restarting by the end of June are those who refuse to stick to the guidelines.

“Phase One was about the clubs proving to us that they could provide a safe work place and they have more than done that,” he said.

“In Phase Two, you have got to start looking at your team-mates, because if there is a spike in testing it is because possibly one of your team-mates has not been respecting guidelines.

“I am sure there will be a big team meeting where senior players or management will have to explain the guidelines and make sure everybody knows how important it is to stick to them.”

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