Premier League clubs recently committed to finishing the current campaign, informally putting an end to any questions on whether they’d take a route like voiding the campaign as the Eredivisie did or finishing it on basis of the current table – like Ligue Un has decided to do.
However, with the coronavirus situation not getting any better in the UK, there are still major doubts all around on how the games can take place. Now playing with fully packed stadiums is out of the question, but even closed-door games have some confusions in terms of execution.
As a result, the Premier League committee have come up with a “Project Restart” plan which outlines all rules & regulations which must be followed for the campaign to resume. There are many intricate regulations in place from this document. Here we’ll give our own take as to how to utilize those measures to start the season safely.
Safety measures in training
Before the season can even begin, teams will have to tough it out in a few weeks of training to get themselves recharged once again. The Premier League has given strict rules to keep in mind during training, which includes a staff wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) disinfecting everything from balls, cones, corner flags etc. Players will also have to arrive wearing their own kits, wear masks at all times & parking their cars three spaces apart from each other in training.
As a rule, the clubs should at first only use a small group of players training together working on their chemistry. So the wingers and forwards should work with each other to hone their goal-scoring potential, while defenders improve their defensive skills together.
After that, clubs could perhaps host 15-min a half five-a-side games pitting the attackers against defenders or midfielders against defenders. Goalkeepers can work on the side with supporting staff or the help of machines. Of course, this wouldn’t be the perfect training regime, but perhaps it’ll ensure SOME form of social distancing & safety measures are maintained.
Where to hold the closed-door games?
The league have drawn up the plan to hold the remaining games in a few “approved neutral stadiums” of a few have reportedly been narrowed down as possible ones to hold the games.
Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium & West Ham United’s London Stadium could be ones ready to host games, but the Premier League must be extra careful as London is among the most-affected areas. Holding the games in the most safest-areas will be wisest and ensure no complications can stir up.
Of course, every player & staff will be thoroughly tested every week (paid by the clubs) after the league does resume and up to only about 400 people will be allowed to enter stadiums during games.
How to improve the near-dead atmosphere of closed-door games?
The worst thing about the closed-door games is they feel hollow, empty & very un-soccer like.
To help improve the experience for viewers, clubs are planning multiple interesting things to improve the situation. Manchester United plan to play chants & songs on speakers at Old Trafford to bring some noise into it. Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach have come up with another situation in which cardboard cut-outs of their fans are glued to the stands.
While the latter is definitely wonky, United’s plan can actually be good. At least we won’t have to hear managers shouting or players mumbling at each other in the silence. Even if it is artificial, still having some loud chants could reinvigorate the players and make the fans feel less empty during games.
What about the players’ choices?
Now as much as we love them, even the players are humans after all. They also have personal lives, families to look out for & playing a contact sport during this period can be scary for some. So it’s understandable why some don’t want to play football if the Premier League starts soon.
As a result, the clubs shouldn’t force upon players unwilling to risk playing in this situation if they really don’t want to. Now, most of the players are aware of the risks but want to continue playing – as long as testing and all other precautions are taken.
The Premier League will ensure that with repeated tests and also isolate players in different hotel rooms through the remainder of the restarted campaign. If certain ones don’t want to play, clubs shouldn’t threaten to cut wages or vilify them.
Even if that means missing an important star or two, then so be it! The players’ choices must be made off utmost importance & the Premier League must plan the restart process based on how they feel about it.