PREMIERSHIP DOCTORS QUESTION SAFETY STEPS FOR LEAGUE RESTART

A coalition of Premier League club doctors has reportedly expressed its concern over plans to recommence the English top flight by next month, citing a multitude of unresolved health and safety issues.

Talks are still progressing over “Project Restart”, with Sky Sports reporting that the Premier League is aiming for teams to resume training in small groups from May 18 and subsequently work towards restarting the competition – on hold since March 13 owing to the coronavirus pandemic – next month.

Among the project’s health and safety protocols are twice-weekly Covid-19 tests before group training, with clubs to set up their own individual drive-through testing centres, which are to be located off site.

Mass testing will only be done on the understanding that it will not compete with the testing already in place for key front-line staff, especially National Health Service workers, and it will be funded entirely by the Premier League so that it does not eat into public resources, Sky reported.

The top flight has since sought feedback from club doctors on the proposed protocols but the Premier League Doctors Group (PLDG) remains unconvinced by the plan. According to sports website The Athletic, the doctors are unwilling to sign off on the measures, especially as there is a possibility of dying from Covid-19 – Britain had almost 30,000 deaths as of yesterday – and are also seeking more clarity into what this entails for clubs and medical staff.

They also raised questions such as the risk of contracting the disease via body contact and sweat, and how long the virus lives on surfaces like goalkeeper gloves.

The Premier League wants players, staff and all vested parties to maintain safe distancing, but club doctors are reportedly frustrated at the possibility of not being able to treat players, unless the service is deemed “essential”.

“Medical staff will have regular close player contact,” a pointer addressed to the Premier League said. “We cannot expect players not to require increased hands-on assessment and treatment following a long period of rest.”

Another important matter that was brought up was data showing blacks and other ethnic minorities in Britain appear to be more susceptible to Covid-19 – an issue as clubs have many non-white players.

The Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre has found that over 34 per cent of more than 4,800 patients in intensive care are from that group – an alarming finding as they comprise only 14 per cent of Britain’s 66.6 million population, the BBC reported.

The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) – critically in protecting front-line workers from the disease – is equally alarming.

The league will be having another shareholders meeting on Monday to discuss the next step, and it is said to be committed to addressing the concerns raised, even if they cannot be resolved immediately.

STRAITS TIMES