Premier League clubs will vote on a return to training on Monday after Raheem Sterling, Steve Bruce and Eva Carneiro warned against rushing back to action amid the coronavirus crisis.
English football has been suspended since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but ‘Project Restart’ is under way and shareholders will discuss the next steps in a conference call.
The focus of Monday’s meeting is set to be the vote on Premier League clubs’ return to training this week, starting with phase one of socially-distanced, small-group sessions.
The PA news agency understands around half of the league’s clubs underwent COVID-19 tests on Sunday ahead of a potential return to training, with the rest due to be checked on Monday morning.
Sides could be training as early as Tuesday if the vote passes, with the Premier League planning to test players twice a week, with 40 tests per session, as part of their plans to make a safe return to action.
It is understood the 1,600 weekly tests will be led by Prenetics as part of the ‘Project Screen by Circle’ initiative, with The Doctors Laboratory processing the tests—as they have been in the Bundesliga.
The German top flight became the first major league to return to action over the weekend, but former Chelsea doctor Carneiro has warned football authorities against making a hasty return.
“My message to them is we cannot talk about returning to full-time competition when we haven’t even delivered phase one,” she told the Times.
“We need to learn and adapt from phase one first and I’m most concerned that the guidance does not consider the culture of football and the lack of existing medical governance.”
Carneiro added: “Football is high stakes but we need to lose this fear of upsetting individual entities in this COVID crisis.
“We need to spread understanding that this is bigger than any single club, manager or player wanting to return.
“There are wider health implications. We are talking about loss of life.”
There remains plenty of questions to answer ahead of a potential return to Premier League action and Manchester City forward Sterling has cast doubt over the hoped-for date of June 12.
Speaking in an interview with United States women’s captain Megan Rapinoe on his Youtube channel, Sterling said: “You can’t come back in with one-and-a-half or two weeks [of training].
“You’d need a full four to five weeks, especially if you’re going to go back into competition, when you’re literally paid to win. You do need to do that preparation—you can’t just go straight in.”
Newcastle manager Bruce says starting before the end of June is simply not viable, insisting an earlier start would see them “fall down like a pack of cards.”
“We’ve listened to what has been said and, with the precautions taken, we will get back to work and start phase one,” Bruce said in the Sunday Telegraph.
“Can we get to that stage where we can have all the players on the pitch together? We don’t know yet.
“Phase one will be mainly fitness work, four or five players on a pitch. Let’s see how we get on.
“You have to remember that they have had eight weeks off and that is probably the longest break some of these players have had in their careers.
“If we were doing pre-season, we would have six weeks and probably have six friendly games to get them ready for the first league match.
“So, we need a good stretch of time here to get them ready. Certainly once we get into stage two, that is vitally important. We need enough preparation to get these players into shape or they are just going to fall down like a pack of cards.”
Despite ongoing concerns about restarting to this backdrop, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin believes most European leagues will be able to finish the season.
Plans are afoot for June resumptions in Spain—where training will step up on Monday with group training of 10 allowed—and Italy, although France, Holland and Belgium have opted to curtail their seasons.
“We have a concrete plan of finishing the European season,” Ceferin told beIN Sports. “Of course, this summer we will have to play without spectators at the stadiums.
“I think the majority of leagues will finish the season. The ones who will not, it’s their decision. But they will still have to play qualifiers if they want to participate in the European UEFA competition.
“I can say that the European season will be finished, if everything is as it is now, in August. As things look now, I’m sure…that we can finish the European season and this means UEFA competition.
“The national leagues are a separate thing and they will decide separately how they want to proceed. But I think at least 80 percent will finish the season.”