After six English Premier League players tested positive for Coronavirus and Watford Captain, Troy Deeney ruled out returning to training, the top-flight football league in England “is as confident as can be” about restarting in June, chief executive Richard Masters has revealed.
“There is some momentum. We’ve taken the first step, it’s great for everybody, including the fans, to see our players back on the training ground” Masters told BBC Sport.
When asked what date the Premier League was targeting for a return, Masters said it must be “flexible” and could learn from the resumption of the Bundesliga last weekend.
He also recognized the need for “contingency plans” and said “curtailment is still a possibility”, meaning the season would be ended, but there were “optimism” fans could attend matches next season.
“We wouldn’t have taken the first step to get back to training if we weren’t convinced we had created a very safe environment for our players. It is the first step and we have to be sure when we go to contact training we have completed those processes. We think it is safe to return” he said.
The league began testing players and staff for coronavirus again on Friday after six tested positive on Tuesday, a result Masters was “reassured by” given it represented less than 1% of tests.
“Our sympathies are with everybody who has tested positive,” he said. “A few of them were surprised because they were asymptomatic.”
Recall that earlier this month, some club doctors raised concerns with league bosses over plans to resume the season, and Masters said the Premier League “were very surprised to hear that”.
“We ran a very thorough consultation with club doctors. We have done everything we possibly can to make a return to training as safe as possible. We think it is safe to return. We have to respect players’ decisions not to return to training. I would be comfortable returning to training” he added.
Should match resume and Liverpool – 25 points clear at the top of the table – secure their first title in 30 years, Masters said they should be allowed a trophy presentation “if we can find a way of doing it”.
But some people have expressed concerns about fans gathering outside Anfield, and Masters said the potential for crowds of supporters was “a concern”.
Masters said the Premier League wanted “to play out the season as much as possible at home and away venues”. “We’re talking to the authorities about that,” he added.
Recall that the Premier League has been suspended since 13 March, and had previously identified 12 June as a possible restart date.