Today could be a pivotal point in the Project Restart saga as Premier League clubs will meet to discuss next steps, address issues and make attempts to offer more clarity around their plans for dealing with the suspended season.
The attempt as restarting leagues across the world has been far from straightforward and on the week that Germany’s Bundesliga was set to restart, it was dealt a potentially serious blow when two players from Bundesliga 2 side Dynamo Dresden tested positive for Coronavirus. It was a sharp reminder to all that the these restarts would only be obtainable if they managed to keep every player healthy because testing positive cannot be treated the same as an injured player.
In the UK, the Premier League has a cushion of time as they are not slated to return to action until June, but they were reminded that the situation at home is not unlike the situation across the world – in fact it is arguably in a worse place. This weekend a third Brighton player was confirmed to have tested positive causing Brighton’s chief executive to comment, “It is a concern. Despite all of the measures that we’ve been taking over the past few weeks, where the players haven’t been involved in any significant training at all, we’ve still suffered another player testing positive for the virus.”
No one ever wishes a player to fall ill, or anyone for that matter, but the timing of this positive test will raise the level of validity to last week’s document submitted from the Premier League Doctors group that raise roughly 100 concerns and questions around teams returning to training. While the Premier League has given verbal assurances of their intent to address and answer each of these concerns, the fact that these medical experts are uncomfortable with the current situation cannot be taken lightly.
The state of the return sits in a precarious state and outside forces will continue to be the linchpin in any plans to resume competitive matches. While the Brighton team will be allowed to be continue their individual training sessions at the club, similar to what Arsenal resumed recently, a positive test during a time with no player-to-player contact does not bode for when full sessions return.
No doubt, seeing another fellow player within the Premier League, coupled with two more outside of the league, will have had an effect on certain player’s willingness to return. Norwich’s Todd Cantwell Tweeted in response to the Brighton news “We are just people too” and while it is a simple statement, there is much to be taken away from it. Similar to every business across the world, the Premier League and clubs will have to walk the fine line between helping themselves and clubs stay afloat while truly prioritizing their player’s and employee’s safety.
While they have verbally stated that player safety is their number one priority, I have been pretty open in my belief that their actions highlight a very different story. It seems pretty clear that forcing a restart without distinct advancements in the fight against COVID-19 would suggest their top priority aligns with the economic side of this argument and the opportunity to mitigate losses.
I will end this for now and report back later when some of the results of today’s meetings are released. For now, stay well, stay healthy, go Gunners.