Strict protocols are reported to have been outlined to clubs ahead of a possible return to training (Matthew Vincent/PA)

Premier League “as confident as we can be” over restart as Watford coronavirus concerns mount up

The Premier League chief executive is remaining optimistic that the top flight in England can restart as planned, though says more debates and decisions lie ahead including scrapping relegation.

Richard Masters told BBC Sport that the first steps had been taken with regard to getting games underway in England again, with teams now back in small group training sessions.

The ultimate aim, though, is to finish off the 2019/20 season in a safe and controlled manner, with the Premier League following the lead of Germany’s Bundesliga—comfortably the first major league to have resumed action.

“It’s great for everybody, including the fans, to see our players back on the training ground,” he said—but followed that up with the acknowledgment that there were no firm dates for a restart and that many subjects still had to be discussed with clubs before confirming games were on.

FA chairman Greg Clarke has already told the Premier League that they would be opposed to scrapping relegation for this season, which some clubs at the foot of the table have said should be an option.

  • Return of contact in elite sport training could get go-ahead next week
  • Contingency plans to be debated and ending the season remains a possibility
  • Premier League are optimistic some fans could attend games in 20/21
  • Relegation still on the table as it hasn’t been discussed with clubs
  • Thorough consultation with doctors gives confidence on safe return to training

Despite some of the above concerns sounding implausible—ending the season early and binning off relegation being the main two—it sounded as though these were perhaps box-checking exercises: as no official talks had been held on the matters, they were still options which hadn’t been struck off the list.

Masters added that he respected the decisions of the players who had not returned to training, but added that the Premier League had “done everything we possibly can” to make the environments safe, and that he himself would be comfortable doing so.

On the matter of playing matches, neutral venues remains a possibility but the league chief says they remain in contact with the authorities over playing at normal home and away grounds.

Pleasingly for Liverpool fans, Masters confirmed that a trophy presentation would be allowed “if we can find a way” to do so, though he also acknowledged concerns over fans congregating outside of Anfield.

One club in particular seems to still be suffering somewhat with regards to getting back up to speed, however.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 29, 2020: Liverpool's Dejan Lovren (L) challenges for a header with Watford's captain Troy Deeney during the FA Premier League match between Watford FC and Liverpool FC at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Watford were already without captain Troy Deeney, who opted against a return to training due to vulnerable family members, and they have also been hit by three positive coronavirus tests.

Manager Nigel Pearson has now confirmed that two more players have had to self-isolate and stay away from the training ground after coming into contact with family members who have also tested positive.

And defender Christian Kabasele has said the players have had no information on a restart and he sees the mooted return on 12 June as impossible, given the short training period now available between now and then.