Premier League players to consult captains over training return fears

Players to be tested at least twice a week, including in 48 hours before they are due to train; managers reassured everything is being done to make sure they are not at risk

Premier League players who do not want to return to training will speak to their captains before deciding whether to go back to work next week.

After two months at home, many players want to go back to work but some think it is too soon to be thinking about playing again when thousands of people are dying every week.

Premier League captains - including Jordan Henderson, Harry Maguire, Cesar Azpilicueta, Mark Noble, and Troy Deeney - held a meeting with the Premier League and medical experts on Wednesday afternoon to talk through the protocols which will be in place to make sure training is as safe as possible.

Premier League clubs could start training again next Tuesday if the proposals are backed by players and managers and approved by the government and Public Health England.

A final decision will be made at the next Premier League shareholders' meeting on Monday, and resuming training in tightly-controlled circumstances is seen as a first step towards the season restarting in the middle of next month.

Premier League captains to talk to players

Martial Maguire
Image: Club captains joined the conference call, including Manchester United's Harry Maguire (right)

The captains who took part in Wednesday's two-hour meeting will now speak to the players at their clubs about the measures that have been put in place to make their training grounds as safe as possible.

Many players have concerns about their health and safety and the wellbeing of their families, and they have been told that no one will be forced to return to work.

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"Some of our players don't want to come back but the majority will," one senior executive at a Premier League club said. "They're going to play again in Germany so there's no reason why we can't try to as well."

The fact that the return of Premier League football is likely to mean the use of 40,000 tests is also controversial for some players, as they will likely be tested at least twice a week, including in the 48 hours before they are due to train.

Another bone of contention is the so-called consent forms which players have to sign to show that they agree to abide by the new training protocols.

Although they are concerned that this could lead to them signing away some of their legal, insurance and employment rights, they have been told the forms do not supersede any of their club's obligations to them.

Concerns covered at Wednesday's meeting also included data which shows BAME groups are more at risk of catching and dying from Covid-19.

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Kaveh Solhekol reports on what Premier League footballers can expect to happen when they are permitted to return to training with their clubs

The PFA was represented at the meeting and they are seeking assurances that players who do not return will not have it held against them and will not have their pay frozen or deferred.

Premier League managers were also told that everything is being done to make sure they are not at risk when they are due to return to training next week.

They were told all team and coach meetings will continue to be done by video conference and all data and video recordings of training sessions are to be made available to the Premier League.

Do the players want to go back to work?

All players have agreed to inform their club immediately if they or anyone in their household develops any Covid-19 symptoms.

It is fair to say the majority of players want to go back.

But some players want to know about what will happen to those in the profession who have asthma or other respiratory conditions. They want to know why official data shows that BAME groups are more likely to develop and die from Covid-19.

Brighton vice-captain Glenn Murray told Thursday's The Football Show players were generally receptive to returning to training - but with concerns over their own vulnerability and those of their loved ones, were more reluctant regarding phase two and three of the return plans - which will include more contact and risk of spreading coronavirus.

He said: "I think most of the players are pretty happy with phase one, obviously there's a lot of people with different situations out there, people who live with vulnerable people, pregnant wives or girlfriends and it's been well-documented about the BAME community being at high risk.

"I think it's a really difficult one to step into phase two, and I think there is some reluctance in certain pockets of players. I think first and foremost, saying players are reluctant to return, I don't want that to be perceived as a snowflake mentality, it's more about being worried about the people that we're going home to. Everyone's in different situations and has different people at home, with illnesses, pregnancies or children."

'I can't get my head round protocols'

Murray also added his confusion at some of the rules on a return to training, and the impact they would have both on players and the quality of the Premier League, when first-team fixtures eventually resume.

"We've got a protocol of returning to training, things like spitting being frowned upon," he said. "I find that incredible, it's not because we're dirty people it's because you produce a protein when you exercise which makes your saliva sticky, you want to offload it, it's that simple.

"They're encouraging facemasks for training, which I can't get my head around or understand how you're going to manage a sport of high-level intensity with a face mask on. You're only allowed into the training ground 15 minutes before training, and the queue for strappings and things in the physio room is about 30 minutes long.

"It's 15 minutes after too, with no or recovery, physiotherapy is only essential so no maseusses or cryo chambers, we're blaming the Premier League and it's obviously a global brand and everyone wants to watch it because of its level and intensity.

"But I just can't understand how that's going to be done with taking all those things away, and trying to fit in a large amount of games into such a short period of time."

Analysis: What will training look like?

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil during a training session at London Colney
Image: Arsenal's Mesut Ozil during a training session at London Colney

Sky Sports News reporter Kaveh Solhekol...

Premier League players are set to go back to work next Tuesday and they will quickly have to become used to a new way of life.

There won't be any morning coffees with team-mates or pre-training massages to loosen up their muscles. Their training grounds will become some of the most sterile places in England as work gets underway to get the Premier League up and running by the middle of next month.

Before players can return to training they have to have be tested for Covid-19 and have a medical examination to check for underlying respiratory and cardiac issues. They will also need to sign a form which confirms that they have agreed to abide by the new medical protocols.

Players will be expected to drive to their training grounds in training kit, preferably wearing a mask and gloves, at a specially designated time. Players are not allowed to share cars with their team-mates and they have to keep the interior of their cars as clean as possible. When they arrive at the entrance to the training ground, their temperature will be checked before they are allowed in.

Real Madrid's Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois arrives to undergo coronavirus tests at the Ciudad del Real Madrid training facilities in Valdebebas, Madrid, on May 6, 2020

In the car park, they won't be able to park in their usual place but will instead have to use a designated parking bay. There will be three empty spaces either side of their car. There will not be any valet car washes and there won't be any weekly visits from their favourite barber either.

Once parked, they will go from their car straight to their allocated training pitch and maintain a social distance of two metres from others at all times. Their training session can last no longer than 75 minutes and it will be in a group of five players with a maximum of three coaches.

Players will be encouraged to wear masks or snoods while they train and if they need treatment, club physios and medical staff will be wearing PPE, which will include a mask, gloves and an apron.

There will be no contact and no tackling in phase one of training which is due to start next week. There will be no exercises or drills which would require players to be close to each other. Everything players come into contact with will be disinfected regularly including the pitch, balls, gloves, goalposts and all training equipment.

Once the training session is over, players will be allowed a brief period to warm down and they will then go straight back to their cars and drive home.

Bundesliga clubs have been back in training since April 7
Image: The Premier League will be keeping a close eye on the Bundesliga, which is due to restart on Saturday

Players will not be allowed to stay behind for any extra work and they are not allowed to move onto any other pitches.

There will not be any squad or team meetings at the training ground. If managers want to hold team meetings they must continue to be carried out by video conference until Premier League guidance changes.

Foreign players returning to England from abroad will not be able to enter their training ground for 14 days.

The rules put in place cannot totally eliminate risk or guarantee no-one will catch or pass on Covid-19. They are aimed at making the 20 Premier League training grounds as safe and clean as possible. They are a first important step towards making sure the current season restarts and finishes this summer.

What happens next?

If everyone is happy with the proposals - clubs, players and managers - then training can resume, if it is approved by the government and Public Health England.

The football authorities, including the Premier League, are meeting the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on Thursday.

The next Premier League shareholders' meeting is scheduled to take place next Monday.

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