Stage one of ‘Project Restart’ is underway after Premier League clubs returned to small group training this week following an agreement between clubs and league officials on Monday.
The English football league has been suspended for more than two months following the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Premier League are keen to get the 2019-20 campaign complete this summer, with each club still having 9-10 games to play.
Germany are leading by example as the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga returned this past weekend after a two-month lay-off. All 18 top flight clubs were in action, playing in front an empty stadiums after a month back in training.
With no fans in attendance and the only major football league in action, live football streaming sites saw a surge in traffic over the weekend as football fans in lockdown were in need of some actual live football to watch.
Premier League clubs can certainly use the Bundesliga as a benchmark, as many teams looked far short of their best following only a month of training and no friendly matches beforehand. Even Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich were far short of their best this weekend – their 2-0 win away to Union Berlin on Sunday consisted of scoring with both of their efforts on target, the first of which was a penalty. Germany’s season is now set to end the final weekend of June.
Should football return in England by mid-June then it will have been three months without any competitive matches for the Premier League club; a more significant break than the teams in Germany had. Players in Germany had to isolate in a hotel for a fortnight before play resumed, something which has not yet been discussed among the English clubs.
Premier League clubs will now take part in non-contract training whilst league and club officials keep an eye on the progress, making sure clubs are abiding the new safety rules before they can step up the intensity. Players returning to their clubs this week are allowed in groups no bigger than five players, and for no longer than 75 minutes of non-contact training.
The UK government have already given the Premier League the green flat to restart having set 1 June as the possible return date for elite sports behind closed doors.
So far there haven’t been any dates agreed for a possible restart, but Friday 12 June had originally been earmarked. Given the delay in getting an agreement to go back to training, it can be expected any restart will be a week or two later than that, at the earliest. Spain and Italy had also been looking at that weekend to bring top flight football back in their countries.
The Premier League announced on Tuesday that 748 players and staff combined from 19 clubs had been tested over Sunday and Monday, with six testing positive among three clubs. None of the affects clubs nor players were originally named, before it was later revealed that Burnley assistant manager Ian Woan was one of the six.