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Kaveh Solhekol, The Insider: Sterilised balls, players returning from all over the world, importance of safety

In his latest weekly column, Sky Sports News reporter Kaveh Solhekol looks at what changes might be afoot when the Premier League returns and what training might look like in these ever-changing times...

The Insider this week features a Q&A with Football consultant and Shanghai resident Cameron Wilson

Matchballs, pitches may be sterilised

Footballs will have to be sterilised if and when the season restarts. Studies have shown that the Covid-19 virus can survive for up to 72 hours on different surfaces but it can be easily killed by cleaning with common household disinfectants.

In order to minimise the risk to players, some club doctors are recommending that matchballs are cleaned thoroughly before they are used by players.

"Anything that can be cleaned will be cleaned," one Premier League backroom staff member said. "We will not be leaving anything to chance."

In Spain, club doctors also want pitches to be treated with disinfectant.

general view inside the empty stadium prior to the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Liverpool FC and Atletico Madrid at Anfield on March 11, 2020 in Liverpool, United Kingdom
Image: Seats are unlikely to be occupied inside Premier League stadiums for some time

"Everything, even the pitches will have to be sterilised," Ralf Ramos, president of the Spanish club doctors' association, said. "It's possible to be infected by an untreated ball but when you are hit by a sterilised ball on a sterilised surface it's very hard to get infected."

When football returns it would not be surprising to see more players wearing gloves even at the height of summer - especially players who regularly handle the ball when they take throw-ins.

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Foreign players called back to clubs

Willian's Chelsea contract will expire this summer
Image: Willian is one of the players who could be affected by any travel restrictions

In a sign that football is slowly gearing up to come back, some foreign Premier League players have been asked to make sure they are back in England by next Tuesday.

Players such as Chelsea midfielder Willian and Brighton goalkeeper Matthew Ryan were given permission to return to their home countries last month.

Being back in the country by Tuesday would mean players would be ready to return to training if some lockdown restrictions are lifted by the government on May 7.

Mat Ryan
Image: Brighton keeper Mat Ryan has been quarantined in Australia

The situation could become more complicated though because the Government is discussing asking new arrivals in the UK to self-quarantine for two weeks.

Premier League clubs can afford the option of chartering private jets to fly their players back to England.

Players will need to train for three weeks before games can start again. If the season is to restart on June 8 then players would need to be back training by May 18.

Asking foreign players to return early next week would give them just enough time to self-quarantine if required for two weeks until May 18.

Player safety the top priority

The Government wants football back and clubs want football back but what about the players?

The majority of them want to get back to work but it is understandable that some would have reservations about playing again this season.

The Government believes restarting sport will be a boost to the nation's morale. Every necessary precaution will be taken to make sure games are played in a safe environment behind closed doors.

Some players though would still rather stay at home with their families until things get back to normal.

The health and safety of all players, club employees and fans remains football's number one priority. The message from football's stakeholders is loud and clear - nothing will ever be done that will put anyone's health and wellbeing at risk.

West Ham back at training ground - but strict conditions

 during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester United at London Stadium on September 29, 2018 in London, United Kingdom.
Image: West Ham players can return to training but with strict restrictions on numbers at their Rush Green complex

West Ham United's Rush Green training ground is open to players but with strict conditions attached.

They are operating a one in one out policy and players have all been notified of the conditions.

Some West Ham players live in apartments and have limited access to outdoor spaces to maintain their fitness. By allowing them access to the training ground, West Ham are helping them stay in shape.

Players book when they want to come in and have to arrive in their own cars in their own training kit.

There is also a time buffer between each 60-minute session to make sure players don't come across each other.

Players using the training ground have been told the main building remains out of bounds so they have to bring anything they may need with them.

That includes water and towels. And they have to wait until they get back home to have a shower.

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