Premier League Plan ‘Project Restart’ to Complete Season
We all yearn for the return of football, but is The Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’ plan a viable one?
Plans to resume the Premier League season have been revealed in a scheme that has been called ‘Project Restart.’ A selection of clubs, including Arsenal, Brighton, and West Ham, has opened up their training grounds. Players can currently go in for individual sessions with social distancing measures in place. This comes ahead of a shareholders’ meeting on Friday. The plans would see Premier League football resume on 8th June and finish at the end of July. This would mean players need to be in full training by 18th May.
If the project gets the go-ahead, European sports and relegation can be decided, as usual, potentially avoiding lawsuits from clubs who may suffer as a result of potential points per game scenario. Furthermore, the league is very eager to resume as it would mean it would not need to pay considerable rebates to tv companies such as Sky, B.T., and overseas broadcasters. It is has been reported that the rebate would be over £750 million.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has been in constant dialogue with clubs about resuming the season as soon as possible. Mr. Dowden, this week said, “I personally have been in talks with the Premier League with a view to getting football up and running as soon as possible in order to support the whole football community.” During a questions session for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, he continued, “But, of course, any such moves would have to be consistent with public health guidance.”
Are the Plans Realistic?
Are there several issues that still need clarification for these plans to get off the ground. First, there needs to be a decision on where the games will take place. All of the 20 top-flight stadiums are unlikely to be used to complete the season. Clubs have expressed a desire to host games in a premier league stadium. Initial plans put forward by the F.A. to host games at neutral venues such as Wembley or St George’s Park have already been rejected.
The Premier League will provide guidelines of where players can gather pre and post-match to get changed. It is expected that around 300 people could be in attendance at matches, even without fans. There will be media, coaches, doctors also in attendance, which further complicates matters.
Testing is another crucial issue. If the season is to resume, players and essential staff will need to be tested for Covid-19 twice a week for the duration of the season. This would be very expensive for clubs, with estimates suggesting it could cost £300,000 across the league.
Putting Players at Risk
While the country is being asked to adhere to strict social distancing measures, it has come as a surprise to some that football could return soon. It is impossible for players to social distance on the pitch. Football, by its nature, is a contact sport. Some solutions have been put forward to ensure the health and safety of players. Clubs have explored the possibility of putting up players into lockdown at hotels for six weeks while the season is completed. This would keep them away from their families to stop the spread of the virus.
Other proposals include sterilising the balls used during matches and after and minimising the contact between players from corners. Banning spitting and allowing up to five substitutions per game have also been suggested.
Lockdown is tough for a lot of people, and football could present a great form of escapism. It is believed the Government view football has a significant part in resuming some sense of normality and lifting morale during these tough times. However, the football mentioned in this article and in the proposals put forward is not the game as we know it.
I am a huge football fan myself. I miss the buzz of a Saturday, seeing friends, enjoying the match, going through every emotion possible in 90 minutes. However, I also know at the moment where it stands in the grand scheme of things. Do we really want football to return with no fans, no marking at corners, players on edge in case they become ill?
Is it right that players, however highly paid they are, should be asked to leave their families for six weeks to complete some football fixtures? What if one player catches the virus and clubs once again have to go into quarantine? For now, medical experts around the world are stating we don’t yet know enough about the virus to make any predictions. One thing we do know, however, is that football, no matter how much money is on the table, needs to wait. We will get through this, and when we do, the beautiful game will seem even more beautiful.
20th May Update: Six Positive Coronavirus Tests for Premier League
Following plans for the Premier League to resume under ‘project restart’, all players and staff at each Premier League club have been tested for COVID-19. It was announced yesterday (19th May) one player and two staff members at Watford tested positive. Burnley’s assistant manager Ian Woan has also tested positive. The other two positive tests were recorded at an as-yet-unnamed club.
Anyone who tests positive will now have to self-isolate for seven days. The news comes following clubs returning to a new form of ‘socially distant’ training on Tuesday. A total of 748 players and staff from 19 clubs were tested.
Watford captain Troy Deeney had expressed concerns on Monday about how safe it was for players to return. The striker, whose son has breathing difficulties, said all of his questions had not been answered. Deeney said “We’re due back in this week. I’ve said I’m not going in. It only takes one person to get infected within the group and I don’t want to be bringing that home”.
“My son is only five months old. He had breathing difficulties, so I don’t want to come home to put him in more danger.”
Watford manager Nigel Pearson echoed those comments, suggesting he still thinks it is too early to return in his interview with The Times newspaper. There are still 92 fixtures remaining in the 2019/20 Premier League season. The league had initially hoped to resume 12 June, but it is now widely expected that the date will be pushed back.
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