Jamie Carragher believes there will be “no safer working environment” than Premier League training grounds, and data assessing top-flight sessions backs that up.
The resumption of the English top flight remains to be confirmed due to concerns from players over safety protocols, while managers believe they will need a longer period of full-contact training to prepare.
Issues over safety are certainly understandable, in the wake of a pandemic that has so far led to over 300,000 recorded deaths worldwide, with many players raising young families.
But in his column for the Telegraph, Carragher asks “where will be safer than a Premier League training facility once the players are allowed back?”
“So long as the guidelines are being strictly followed, footballers have a benefit denied other industries because of the amount of testing that will be done to keep the virus out of their workplace,” he explained.
“It should be virtually impossible for any infected player to take to the pitch.”
Rightly, Carragher notes that “people working in other industries should be guaranteed the same level of protection and testing” but the prospect of testing at least twice a week “ought to be some comfort” for players.
Strict measures will be implemented to ensure the risk of infection is as low as possible, and Carragher believes an “improved communication process” will help convince players.
One study, detailed by the Independent, could serve as reassurance, as it has emerged that incursions into a two-metre ‘Subbuteo base’ around players in training last on average just 3.3 seconds.
STATSports, who provide GPS vests to 15 of the Premier League clubs to monitor activity, analysed 11 training sessions from four clubs between February 25 and March 12.
“The main findings were that the average incursion lasts a mere 3.3 seconds, from an average of 350 incursions per session,” the report reads.
“Since that can be amplified by situations like set-piece drills, the majority of incursions last under one second.
“This is all considered lower than the threshold to contract coronavirus, particularly since it is outside.”
It is added that “the average time and amount of incursions would be even lower if using what are now being called ‘COVID-friendly drills’ for phase two” of the return to training, as these findings were based on sessions prior to the pandemic.
Furthermore, the study “may have involved incursions during water breaks and rest periods” which could have further distorted the results, suggesting the rate of risk is even lower.
This reinforces Carraghers claim, and the hope is that this will help assure players that their safety will be paramount throughout this return-to-play process.