England’s forging forward with reopening the country at a pace that many are finding just a bit too quick, including the restart of primary schools on Monday, but that also means that the Premier League now have an official green light for matches to restart as well.
On Saturday, the UK government issued their latest guidance, which includes moving to “stage three” in the plan to facilitate the return of “elite sport” in the country. (So still no kickabouts in the park, sorry!)
“The wait is over. Live British sport will shortly be back on in safe and carefully controlled environments.
“This guidance provides the safe framework for sports to resume competitions behind closed doors. It is now up to individual sports to confirm they can meet these protocols and decide when it’s right for them to restart.
“This is a significant moment for British sport. By working with clinicians every step of the way, we are creating the safest possible environments for everyone involved.”
-Oliver Dowden; Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; source: Sky
Oratory fluff aside, the new guidelines build on the guidelines we’ve seen in action over the past few weeks, and include all the new-usual things we’ve grown accustomed to already: testing, social distancing, empty stadiums — just turned up a few extra notches in some cases. The guidelines actively discourage celebrations and face-to-face confrontations, for example.
The testing portion is especially emphasized as the guidelines allow and recognize that social distancing is not a realistic expectation in contact sports, on or off the pitch (i.e. in treatment or dressing rooms). Increased “surveillance” may take the form of questionnaires, screenings, and even more frequent testing.
Where Social Distancing cannot be maintained at all times during the Competition, higher levels of surveillance may be implemented for a) current and b) past COVID-19 infection than at Stage Two. This will evolve in line with government and PHE guidelines and subject to ongoing audit and review.
While the green light is now on, the Premier League won’t be returning to play until June 17, with Chelsea’s first game not until the weekend of June 20. But we’re getting closer!