Sheffield United given green light to begin group training on Tuesday

Premier League clubs will start training in small groups from Tuesday after a unanimous vote moved them one step closer to resuming the 2019-20 season.

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With social distancing rules still in place, no contact will be allowed, and strict protocols will have to be observed.

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The move is described as step one of “project restart”, and clubs will vote on Friday over a possible date to resume matches. UEFA have set the Premier League a deadline of the following Monday to outline their plans and timetable for a resumption of the season, which was suspended in mid-March because of coronavirus.

RETURN: On Tuesday Premier League players will take the first step towards completing the season

"Step one of the return to training protocol enables squads to train while maintaining social distancing,” explained a Premier League statement. “Contact training is not yet permitted.

"Strict medical protocols of the highest standard will ensure everyone returns to training in the safest environment possible.

"The health and well-being of all participants is the Premier League's priority, and the safe return to training is a step-by-step process. Full consultation will now continue with players, managers, clubs, the PFA (players union the Professional Footballers' Association) and LMA (League Managers Association) as protocols for full-contact training are developed."

Sheffield United's players have been training on an individual basis for four weeks, but have been unable to work together.

The Premier League remain committed to trying to complete their season but despite this latest development it is far from a formality, which is why a vote on a restart date has been further delayed. The intended return date appears to have been pushed back to June 19.

A number of high-profile players have expressed their concerns about a return, and have said they think the process is being too rushed. Raheem Sterling has said he thinks he will need “four to five weeks” of training before being match-fit for top-level football.

It has been reported that former Leeds United defender Rio Ferdinand has been appointed to liaise with the players on behalf of the company which will carry out covid-19 testing on behalf of the Premier League.

Project Screen by Circle (PSC) are said to have appointed Ferdinand to a “player engagement” role to help provide reassurance, although they have not confirmed as much.

PSC are expected to carry out around 40,000 tests for players, coaches and staff at a cost to the league of around £4m. As part of the return to training, players are due to be tested twice a week.

Ferdinand is listed on DNAfit’s "scientific and advisory team" and "Head of health, wellness and sports advisory board". Like PSC, DNAfit are a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based biotechnology firm Prenetics.

Sheffield United are seventh in the table, which if the season was to end should qualify them for a first European campaign, but have been very vocal in their desire to start playing again. Under the unweighted points-per-game table proposed by League Two, they would move up to sixth.

The top six clubs, and seventh or the FA Cup winners if do not finish higher, will qualify for Europe, and an extra club will join them unless Manchester City successfully appeal against their two-season ban from continental competition, or are granted a stay of execution while their case is heard. The Blades are due to host Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

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