As Premier League teams and players begin the second week of small group training, they also start gearing up for a couple crucial votes later this week.
Following the UK government green-lighting “close contact” training by releasing their phase two guidelines on Monday, the Premier League are expected to follow suit by moving into stage two of Project Restart as well. The league will be meeting with teams and players today (Tuesday) and tomorrow, with a decisive vote expected on Wednesday.
“Stage Two training can be described as the resumption of close contact (interaction within the two metre social distancing boundary) training where pairs, small groups and/or teams will be able to interact in much closer contact (e.g. close quarters coaching, combat sports sparring, teams sports tackling, technical equipment sharing, etc).”
“It is anticipated that engaging in this type of training would start with smaller ‘clusters’ of 2-3 athletes and eventually progress to larger groups of 4-12 athletes, and ultimately full team training, without social distancing possible at all times. Under Stage Two conditions, as per Stage One, social distancing will continue to be the expectation at all other times aside from technical training.”
-Elite sport return to training guidance: Stage Two
If stage two is approved, the teams will vote again on Thursday to decide on a definitive date for matches to restart, with June 19 the most likely outcome at the moment — though some teams are now pushing for an extra week, to June 26. This date had already been moved back once, from June 12, due to concerns over player fitness.
Given the success of phase one so far, as well as the progress seen in Germany where the Bundesliga have now completed two weekends of matches, the Premier League are apparently also confident of convincing (most of) those players holding out over coronavirus fears that the plans are safe enough. Watford captain Troy Deeney, who’s been a vocal opponent of Project Restart due to his concerns over COVID-19 posing a greater risk for BAME players, was part of a meeting on Friday with the PFA Deputy Medical Chief, which apparently was successful in addressing some of Deeney’s concerns. Whether that’s truly enough to convince him and others like N’Golo Kanté remains to be seen.
Other issues up for debate will include neutral venues — some games, not all, could possibly be forced to move due to policing and crowding concerns over games like Spurs vs. Arsenal and West Ham vs. Chelsea — as well as broadcasting payments, so there’s plenty of action ahead!