EPL to address players' fears, London mayor resists restart

FILE - This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the virus causes COVID-19. A new type of coronavirus test offers a cheaper, quicker way to screen for infections, moving the U.S. toward the kind of mass screening that experts say is essential to returning millions of Americans to school and work. But the first so-called antigen test _ announced Saturday, may 9, 2020 by the Food and Drug Administration _ is not quite the kind sought by top government health officials. It is less accurate than the current gold standard for testing and can only be run on specialized equipment. (NIAID-RML via AP)
FILE - This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the virus causes COVID-19. A new type of coronavirus test offers a cheaper, quicker way to screen for infections, moving the U.S. toward the kind of mass screening that experts say is essential to returning millions of Americans to school and work. But the first so-called antigen test _ announced Saturday, may 9, 2020 by the Food and Drug Administration _ is not quite the kind sought by top government health officials. It is less accurate than the current gold standard for testing and can only be run on specialized equipment. (NIAID-RML via AP)

MANCHESTER – The English Premier League will seek to allay players' concerns about health risks as the government prepares to release protocols allowing a phased resumption of contact training as coronavirus restrictions are eased.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday set out how elite sports could resume in June if there is not a new spike in COVID-19 infections.

But, with hundreds of people still dying each day, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Tuesday it was too early for games to be staged again in the capital which contains five Premier League clubs.

“Sadiq is ... concerned about the welfare of players competing in all professional sports, not just football,” the mayor's office said in a statement. "There are huge questions to be asked how players could train safely, how they would travel to matches and how they could play competitive matches without the risk of spreading infection.”

The government is planning to release a strategy this week that allows players to resume group training even as social distancing is being encouraged in wider society.

“It’s about the building blocks — how long before we can go back into full contact training?” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told reporters. "It does depend on what sort of contact because obviously you’re trying to ensure the players keep themselves safe even during that contact training situation and that will have to be dealt with on a case by case basis.”

It is two months since the last games were played before the league was suspended during the pandemic.

“One thing is for sure," Masters said, "all clubs will have to be safe and secure in the knowledge that their players are going to be fit before a decision on going back on the pitch is taken, given that they have had such a long layoff.