It looks like we’re edging closer and closer to the return
of football in Europe. A bunch of clubs are already gathering their players for
training sessions and the Premier League has put a plan in motion which could
bring the season to an end.
Details are still scarce but we do have enough information
to get an idea of what the intentions are.
In this article, I highlight the key aspects of what has
been dubbed as “Project Restart” and share my opinion on whether the plan can
work out and how it will affect the football community in the country.
What Is Project Restart?
As I already mentioned, “Project Restart” is the nickname
for the process with which the Premier League executives will attempt to bring
the 2019/2020 to a close after the coronavirus pandemic shut it down in March.
High-ranked officials from the Football Association and the
EPL’s governing body have held multiple meetings since the lockdown and it
seems that there is finally a structured plan that they will push forward to
the English government.
A lot of specifics are still unknown, but it has been said
that the league executives are planning to resume the season on June 13th.
In order for this to happen, games will have to be played on
neutral grounds and every club must ensure they adhere to the necessary social
distancing measures prior to the matches.
Additionally, the Premier League has guaranteed that they
will cover the expenses for the regular tests each player will have to take.
Which doesn’t’ surprise me one bit as given how important public health needs
are right now, the government would hardly consider a plan which requested taxpayer
money for the games to go ahead.
How Will the Plan Work and Is It Safe?
This is all very much in the realm of speculation right now
but the main idea is to have the remaining 92 Premier League fixtures held
behind closed doors at stadiums that can cover the strict healthy measures that
the government will want in place.
We still don’t know which of the EPL grounds can qualify for
that but naturally, the ones owned by the bigger organizations will probably
get the nod.
Arsenal and Tottenham boast state-of-the-art stadiums in
London and will probably be in that bracket. I expect Old Trafford and the
Ethihad will also be in the frame but it will be interesting to see whether
Chelsea and Liverpool’s venues will meet the demands.
However, securing the stadiums is just a small part of the
problem. For this to work, the EPL panel will need to ensure that the players
have had ample time to prepare physically.
They will also have to cram a lot of matches in a short
period of time if they want to wrap up things before the end of July.
And, of course, the return of the league will create a huge
buzz and there’s no way some matches will be played without the EPL securing
the necessary setup for covering them live on TV.
This all means that even though there won’t be fans in the
stands, there will have to be at least a few hundred people present to oversee
the matchday process including media, essential staff and caretakers.
Some of the clubs’ medical experts have already expressed concerns over the plan as there is insufficient information on how frequently will the players and staff be tested and what are the concrete measures that will ensure that medical staff is not exposed to risk.
Meaning that we’re still far from getting a clear picture of
how the Premier League intends to keep people safe when and if the games go
Which makes the plan incomplete and dangerous at this point.
We all want football to return as soon as possible and I’m
sure that “Project Restart” will improve as more and more experts join with
proposals but anyway you look at it, finishing the season will have all sorts
of physical risks involved.
Players will be more prone to injuries after the lack of
playing time and a lot of working force will be exposed as there is no way that
social distancing can be practiced effectively in such a setting.
Given how the medical community has reacted to the plan, I
hope that the Premier League officials put a lot of focus on the health and
security of everyone involved and don’t rush into decisions regardless of what
the government decides to do next during the lockdown.