Return to training date now top of agenda for Yorkshire’s clubs

JUNE 1 is rapidly emerging as the deadline for Premier League and Football League clubs to return to full training with the clock ticking to save the 2019-20 campaign.

The game's governing bodies and government representatives are set to talk about the possibility of players returning to full training sooner rather than later. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

This week, the government is to set up meetings with senior medical directors of major sports to discuss a return to action with sport in shutdown across the country.

The Chief Medical Officer’s staff are to be involved and the Prime Minister has been briefed on the plan.

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The specifics of each sport will be examined by health experts to see what protocols would be needed to get each up and running as soon as possible. Some would return sooner than others.

Clubs are hoping for a return to action some time in july, if possible. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe .

Testing, social distancing, hygiene standards and strict limits on the numbers of people allowed in venues will all be debated.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has previously told MPs that he had been having “productive talks” with governing bodies from across British sport on restarting after the coronavirus shutdown.

On the prospect of sport returning at recreation, amateur and professional level, First Secretary of State Dominic Raab – speaking on the Andrew Marr programme – said: “It is (currently) very difficult because of the level and scale of interaction.

“I think in professional sport, it may be different because of the scale of testing that they would be able to introduce. But we will look at that in the round.

LEADING MAN: Dominic Raab, pictured during a media briefing in Downing Street earlier this month: Andrew Parsons/PA.

“We do want to look – when it’s safe and responsible – at ways to allow more outdoor activities to take place. But again, we have got to have the evidence that it is a sure-footed step and does not allow coronavirus to get a grip back on the country.”

The Premier League remains committed to completing the 92 outstanding matches this season and has drawn up plans to broadcast about half of them live.

Up to 400 people, including media, would be allowed to attend matches should they test negative for Covid-19.

Last week, the Premier League – who holds its next meeting on Friday – shared its own plan to continue the season, which has been labelled ‘Project Restart’, at a meeting of shareholders.

The prospect of playing games behind closed doors at a limited number of stadiums was discussed.

The Premier League are working towards finishing the season by July 27, with August 22 pencilled in for the start of next season.

A return to training on June 1 would mean that teams would be ready to play again by late June with top-flight sides able to complete their fixture commitments by the end of July if they played three matches a week.

Across the Football League, the situation is not as straightforward – with play-offs potentially having to be factored in – but the EFL have reiterated their intent to complete the 2019-20 season as soon as it is safe to do so.

A statement released on Saturday read: “The EFL notes this morning’s newspaper reports in respect of the potential resumption of professional football matches in England and Wales and welcomes the current steps being taken by the UK government to establish a group of governing bodies to look at the complex set of challenges facing the wider sporting industry.

“The position of the EFL remains unchanged in that the priority is to resume the 2019-20 season as soon as it is possible, with matches only returning at an appropriate point and based on guidance from the relevant authorities. The health and well-being of the nation has to come first.

“However, it is also our view that a successful return to playing in this country can only come about through a continued collaborative approach with all stakeholders, including the Premier League and Football Association, in order for important issues to be aligned such as, but not limited to, scheduling of fixtures, promotion, relegation and the opening and closing of transfer windows. This work has been ongoing for some time and will continue in the weeks ahead.

“Clearly, before any return can take place, suitable testing arrangements for participants must be in place and this is core to our planning, as is ensuring there is absolutely no negative impact on the country’s front-line workers, emergency services, League and club staff members.”

The Premier League plans also include a protocol for returning to training with players travelling individually to and from training grounds and arriving dressed in their kit.

Before games, additional changing facilities would be provided to maintain social distancing with distancing measures in place for pre-match warm-ups.

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