Project Restart in limbo after call with Premier League captains

Project Restart in race against time with kick-off potentially put back a week to June 19 after video calls with Premier League captains and managers saw concerns raised over quick turnaround

  • Premier League is facing race against time to meet its restart target of June 12 
  • Managers raised concerns about players’ fitness and quality they could produce 
  • Players expressed fears for their safety ahead of planned return to training
  • West Ham’s Mark Noble and Watford’s Troy Deeney were vocal during the call 
  • Players were divided over the plans and protocols attached to Project Restart

The Premier League is facing a race against time to meet its restart target of June 12 after managers and players expressed doubts about the viability of the planned resumption date.

In video conferences on Wednesday, chaired by the Premier League’s medical officer Mark Gillett, both groups gave tentative backing to resuming training next week, but did not endorse any other phases of the return to training plan, never mind playing matches.

Although the overall tone of their meeting was positive, the managers in particular are understood to have questioned whether they would be ready for a return to action on June 12, highlighting concerns over their players’ fitness and as a result the quality of football they would be able to produce.  

Premier League managers are understood to have questioned whether players would be ready to return to action on June 12 as part of the Project Restart proposals to finish the season

The issue of players breaking down was raised, with June 19 suggested as a more realistic date

The most likely date for a restart is now a week later, June 19.

With the clubs not due to meet again to approve returning to training until Monday, several managers pointed out that the earliest they can begin coaching players will be the following day, and even then the work they will be permitted to do will be extremely limited.

Most Premier League players have been restricted to individual training at home since the middle of March and they will remain subject to social distancing rules if permitted to resume working with team-mates on Tuesday next week.

The first phase of training will see players working in small groups with distancing in place before contact is permitted in the week beginning May 25, although still only in groups of five or six.

The earliest date for resumption of full training is June 1, leading several managers to say that expecting them to be ready to play on June 12, after just nine or 10 days’ training, is unreasonable, particularly as rest days also have to be factored in.

The issue of players breaking down was also raised and as a result June 19 was suggested as a more realistic return date, a view which the Premier League agreed to consider.  

Project Restart is in doubt after a conference call involving captains, with West Ham’s Mark Noble having been heavily involved in the discussions

Watford striker Troy Deeney is understood to have been vocal during the conference call

Sportsmail has learned that Sky Sports and BT Sport have been told to work towards a resumption on June 12 or 19, which could be significant.

The players’ conference call later in the day is understood to have been more focused on their safety, rather than concerns about building up match fitness.

Most expressed a willingness to resume training in a limited form next week, but would not commit beyond that and asked more searching questions about whether their safety could be guaranteed.

The Premier League did not duck the issue, replying that although there could be no guarantees of not contracting Covid-19, training grounds would be sterile environments and far safer than being out in public.

The players were also told that their safety protocols are far more rigorous than those approved by the Government for returning to work in other industries. 

The captains’ meeting — which started at 2pm and lasted for over two hours — saw players express major fears over safety ahead of their planned return to training next week. 

Players expressed fears over their safety ahead of their planned return to training next week

West Ham captain Mark Noble and Watford skipper Troy Deeney are understood to have been particularly vocal during the conference call.

With 20 players on the call it is understood there were divisions among the group over the plans.

Players towards the top of the league were said to be more relaxed with the hygiene protocols devised by the Premier League, but those towards the bottom expressed greater concerns.

The majority of the players, but certainly not all, are prepared to return to small-group training on Monday. 

Sportsmail knows of a number of players, more so towards the bottom of the league, who have told their clubs they are reluctant to report for training next week and that was relayed during the meeting.

The captains also made clear that the players still have concerns over what happens when phase two of training commences.

Players were said to be somewhat divided over plans and protocols attached to Project Restart

Phase one will see players split into groups of up to five whilst social distancing. But phase two will see a return to contact training, in particular tackling. 

‘How can you guarantee a player’s safety if they are in constant contact with each other?’ asked one source.

The issue of Covid-19 agreement forms that players will be asked to sign —exclusively revealed by Sportsmail last week — was also a bone of contention. Players queried where it leaves them legally if they were to sign the forms, fearing that they are tantamount to legal disclaimers.

Now some clubs want to delay Monday’s planned vote to decide whether to press ahead.

After their meeting on Wednesday the Football League (EFL) told its Championship clubs that they should not start training until May 25 at the earliest — ‘Until all outstanding matters are concluded, including finalising a comprehensive testing programme.’

Share this article

Source: Read Full Article