premier league

Football medics debate future of the Premier League season

The CEO of the representative body for football’s medical practitioners spoke to AS English about the steps required before the Premier League can restart the 2019/20 season.

Football medics debate future of the Premier League season
ANDY RAIN EFE

Following a meeting of all 20 clubs a statement from the Premier League announced that: “The League and clubs are considering the first tentative moves forward” and had “exchanged views on the information provided regarding ‘Project Restart’”.

Medical considerations were high on the agenda at Friday’s meeting with clubs eager to discuss prospective measures required to complete the remaining 92 games, known as ‘Project Restart’. The Telegraph has reported that twice-weekly coronavirus testing, stringent health checks for all players and the use of neutral venues was discussed.

The idea of playing games at neutral venues has grown in popularity in recent weeks as the quickest and safest way to bring the current season to a conclusion. Gary Neville has even called for the teams to be taken abroad to a country with a lower coronavirus risk to play the remaining fixtures.

The former Manchester United and England player told Sky Sports:

“If the Premier League were really serious about delivering the matches that remain in the most safe environment, they would move it to one of the two or three spots that are within three or four hours of this country that are coronavirus-free, or virtually coronavirus-free.

Medical advice will be the key

In whatever form football does eventually return, medical staff will be vital to ensuring that games can be played safely.

AS English spoke to Eamonn Salmon, founder and CEO of the Football Medicine and Performance Association (FMPA); the representative body for medicine and performance practitioners in professional football.

Sin tituloA Chelsea supporter wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), including a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, awaits kick off in the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge

When asked about the prospects of Premier League football returning, he said:

“I think the bottom line is, if you can’t get past the medicine then there’s no point discussing anything else… We’ll have an influence [on the decision-making process], I’m in direct contact with the medical advisor of the Premier League, the FA and the Football League”.

When football does return it will almost certainly come back in a reduced capacity, behind closed doors and with fewer broadcasters. To that end it may be possible to play games with just three medical staff from each club.

“You would definitely have to have a club doctor and a physiotherapist, they’d have to be on the bench… They would probably have to have a soft tissue therapist, or masseur, in preparation for games. I think really that would be the minimum”.

With so much uncertainty about the future of the coronavirus pandemic there is no consensus on what the next step should be. Medical chiefs from UEFA and FIFA have offered conflicting opinions in recent days and that is typical across the sport.