The English Premier League’s Project Restart is taking another step forward in hopes of finishing their current season.
A week after returning to training facilities and holding sessions in small groups, all 20 clubs have approved a return to contact training. The UK Government gave the green light earlier this week to ‘close-contact’ and ‘competitive training‘, allowing for the Premier League to hold a vote themselves. The EPL was aiming for a June 12th restart, but seems unlikely now with full training sessions yet to occur.
Close-contact training for elite athletes can include coaching and tackling in team sports within a two-meter distance, in groups of up to 12 players, the guidelines stated.
“Premier League Shareholders today voted unanimously to resume contact training, marking another step towards restarting the Premier League season, when safe to do so,”the Premier League said in a statement.
“Squads are now able to train as a group and engage in tackling while minimizing any unnecessary close contact. The Premier League’s priority is the health and wellbeing of all participants.
“Strict medical protocols are in place to ensure the training ground is the safest environment possible and players and staff will continue to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week. Stage Two of the Return to Training protocol has been agreed following consultation with clubs, players, managers, the PFA, LMA and the Government.
“Discussions are ongoing as work continues towards resuming the season, when conditions allow.”
Despite the approval of the next step, it hasn’t seen every Premier League player agree with the plan. Watford captain Troy Deeney, Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante, and Tottenham loanee Danny Rose all have voiced their opinions on the safety of players, with Deeney and Kante sitting out of training sessions so far.
In the first two rounds of COVID-19 testing, there have been eight positive cases from 1,744 tests. The third round of testing should be completed by Thursday, ahead of another important meeting on Project Restart in regards to relegation and awarding of the league title, if the season has to be concluded early.
16 of the 20 Premier League sides have nine matches to make up due to the halt of the schedule. Manchester City, Arsenal, Sheffield United, and Aston Villa have ten matches remaining due to postponed matches due to cup competition replays.
Liverpool are 25 points clear of second-place Manchester City while the race for the top four includes Leicester City, Chelsea, and Manchester United. Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United are also in the mix for European Football next season.
Six teams are currently under 30 points at the opposite end of the table, with Norwich City, Aston Villa, and Bournemouth currently occupying the bottom three spots. Watford, West Ham United, and Brighton & Hove Albion aren’t in the clear yet, currently sitting just outside of the bottom three.