With the resumption of the 2019/20 Premier League season a little over a week away now, teams have begun to step up the intensity in training sessions as they look to fully prepare for the remaining fixtures.
However, as has been the case throughout the coronavirus pandemic, a number of unanswered questions still remain, which, sooner or later, will have to be addressed.
Here’s a look at the latest updates regarding Project Restart this Saturday…
In order to show the footballing community’s appreciation for the hard work and dedication put in by National Health Service workers and everyone who has risked their lives to save others, teams will have the ‘NHS’ logo on their shirts when the 2019/20 campaign resumes.
Sky Sports’ Kaveh Solhekol first reported back in the middle of April that it was merely an ‘idea’ that was worth exploring. Solhekol went on to add that every club he contacted responded positively to the idea – although there was no mention of just how many clubs he contacted.
It may only be a small gesture, but it is the least the Premier League and players can do to show the footballing world’s appreciation for the incredible work the NHS continue to do.
The noise (or lack thereof) during matches since the Bundesliga in Germany resumed has been much discussed, with authorities from other leagues considering ways to solve this issue. One possible solution has been to make artificial crowd noise available to those who want it – although this has been criticised by some as it is claimed it would take away from the reality of the sport.
However, BT Sport and Sky Sports have both seemingly decided that it is, ultimately, the viewers’ preference. Sky Sports have announced on their official website that, in partnership with EA Sports, the company has created a range of ‘bespoke and team-specific crowd noises and chants’, and these will be used when the 2019/20 season gets back underway.
This, however, is merely an option and viewers can choose to either have or not have it.
BT Sport have also come up with a similar plan, with the Independent reporting that viewers can turn on a ‘dynamic noise feature’ during each game if they press the red button. This will ‘simulate’ the sound of supporters filling a stadium.
West Ham’s vice chairman Karren Brady has revealed that Premier League grounds will be divided into red, amber and green zones as the Premier League looks to introduce appropriate safety measures ahead of the resumption of the season.
In Brady’s column in The Sun, it was explained that matchday protocols are now being discussed. Brady said: “We are now in the process of agreeing the matchday protocols, which will include everything from zoning the stadium into red, amber and green zones.
“Red zone will be the most severely restricted area, including the pitch, the tunnel, technical areas, changing rooms will be limited to 105 people maximum, to include players, coaching staff, match officials and all the essential staff only…We will be creating a ‘Clinical Passport System’ for those who will need to have access to the red zone.
“The amber zone will be restricted to the minimum number of staff required to meet contractual requirements for broadcasting, media and club staff. This area includes all interior areas within the stadium and anyone entering this area will be subject to a temperature check and a health questionnaire.
“And the green zone is the stadium exterior, e.g. car parking. In all areas, social distancing needs to be observed and a series of one-way systems and other procedures need to be incorporated to ensure that it is.
“This includes in the dressing room (save 15 minutes for the pre-match tactical talk by the manager) and the showers. A new strict accreditation process will be developed, including an isolation room should someone unfortunately develop symptoms of Covid-19 while within the stadium.”
Brady has further revealed that in order to improve the viewing experience, new and different camera angles will be used. This is on top of the artificial crowd noise (should viewers decide they would like it).
To improve the matchday experience for fans, those at home will get a 360-degree replay of the action. Furthermore, there will also be new cameras in the tunnel and for celebrations to help fans from home see matches in a slightly more different and unique way.
The Daily Mail report that the Premier League have dispatched what have come to be known as ‘snoop squads’ to every club in England’s top division in order to monitor teams’ training and observe whether rules are being followed.
While members of these ‘snoop squads’ are doing an excellent job by, for example, measuring the distance between cars and ensuring clubs wash all gates etc, their powers of enforcement are ‘extremely limited’.
Some compliance officers are said to be frustrated that they weren’t sent earlier to carry out their jobs, instead there is now a feeling among some that the only way clubs can break the rules would be if players ate together in the canteen.
The Daily Mail state that the Premier League have yet to be informed of a single breach of the protocols. As it is in each teams’ best interests to abide by the measures that have been put in place, the Premier League are said to be confident this will remain the case.
As a result, there are no plans to increase the maximum £25,000 fine for clubs should they not follow the protocols.