Premier League clubs will have to wait till after next Thursday to vote at a meeting how best to press ahead with their intention to resume the season on June 8, according to The Times of London.
The 20 clubs had discussed plans in a conference call yesterday, but the practicalities of how to even begin training will be the first obstacle they have to overcome with “Project Restart”.
They reconfirmed their commitment to finish the season, subject to coronavirus restrictions being lifted in Britain despite fears expressed by players.
“The league and clubs are considering the first tentative moves forward and will only return to training and playing with government guidance, under expert medical advice and after consultation with players and managers,” the Premier League said in a statement.
The league is hoping the UK government, which is due to review the curbs on Thursday, will give the go-ahead to a return to training, albeit with strict medical guidelines in place.
Getting players back on the training field would clear the way to an eventual resumption of the season in early June with games expected to be held behind closed doors, possibly at neutral venues.
Although European football’s governing body UEFA has set a deadline of May 25 for leagues to inform it of their plans to resume action – in order to help with the schedule for the remaining Champions League and Europa League matches – the Premier League has plenty of time to complete its fixtures.
No top-flight matches in England have taken place since March 9.
UEFA has indicated it is willing to wait until late August to complete the continental club competitions and that gives the Premier League the whole summer to work with.
“Patience is the key here and patience will lead to the correct decision, there simply is no rush where we stand right now,” one club official told Reuters.
Leagues in France and the Netherlands have been cancelled for this season, but there appears to be little pressure on the Premier League to follow suit.
Oliver Dowden, the UK government’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has said he has been working with the league with the aim of getting games back on as soon as possible.
He tweeted yesterday after a separate meeting with leading medical experts: “We just kicked off 1st of many detailed meetings to plan for a safe return of elite sport behind closed doors when, and only when, it is safe to do so on the basis of expert medical advice. Lots to consider, but today we step up planning.”
Some clubs, including London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, have opened their training grounds, but the pitches are being used only for individual work and they are not back in normal practice sessions.
The league has been taking advice from club medical teams on how training could be conducted in a safe manner, with the aim of finding a protocol for clubs to agree upon.
The Daily Mirror published parts of a seven-page document ,which showed some of the plans being considered.
Those proposals include privately funded testing for players, coaches and backroom staff two to three times a week before the return to group training and widespread disinfection of training equipment and facilities after each session.
The report also said players would wear face masks and there would be a ban on spitting.
The plans are based on players not using inside facilities other than to visit the toilet and a phased return with players initially working in small groups.
Sixteen teams in the league have nine rounds remaining, while four have 10 rounds still to play.