Premier League allows training to start again 'in small groups'

18 May 2020, 15:15

Chelsea should have taken on Wolverhampton Wanderers over the weekend
Chelsea should have taken on Wolverhampton Wanderers over the weekend. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Premier League clubs have taken the first step towards normality after giving the go-ahead to training in small groups. 

Clubs blacked the move “unanimously” at a ‘Project Restart’ meeting of shareholders on Monday, league bosses said. 

Group-based training will now resume from Tuesday afternoon, but players will have to follow social distancing rules and contact training is not yet allowed.

The measures were voted on after weeks of preparation and disquiet from some club doctors and players who felt it was too soon.  

It marks the first stage of the return of top-flight English football, which was suspended indefinitely on 3 April with the last Premier League fixture played on 9 March. 

The Premier League said in a statement that the new training protocol had “been agreed in consultation with players, managers, Premier League club doctors, independent experts and the Government".

It added: “Strict medical protocols of the highest standard will ensure everyone returns to training in the safest environment possible. 

“The health and wellbeing of all participants is the Premier League’s priority, and the safe return to training is a step-by-step process. 

“Full consultation will now continue with players, managers, clubs, the PFA and LMA as protocols for full-contact training are developed.”

The announcement came after it was announced that Celtic had won the Scottish Premiership title after the season was cut short due to the coronavirus crisis. 

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The team were declared champions for the ninth year in a row in a meeting of league bosses on Monday, after 12 clubs agreed to rule out all remaining fixtures. 

The final placings were calculated from average points per game before playing was suspended on 13 March when the pandemic hit.

Neil Lennon’s side still had eight games to play like most teams in the division, but was 13 points clear of Rangers in second. 

It means Edinburgh club Hearts have been relegated from the top league, Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) announced. 

Hearts, who were four above Hamilton Academical at the bottom of the table with a possible 24 points up for grabs, said it was considering taking legal action. 

They said in a statement: “We have stated from the outset that we don’t believe it is right that any club should be unfairly penalised because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Hearts will shortly submit a member’s resolution that we believe is a pragmatic solution to the issues the game currently faces and a way forward that the clubs can unite behind. 

“It is our belief that this resolution, if supported, will provide an opportunity to avoid disproportionately disadvantaging – financially and otherwise – any club. 

SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan said there was “no realistic option but to call” the season to an end. 

The body’s chief executive Neil Doncaster added that it was the "clear and unanimous view" of clubs.

"The focus will now turn to how we get football up and running again safely as soon as possible," he said. "Nobody should be under any illusion as to how complicated and difficult a challenge it will be to return Scottish football to normality." 

The ruling to waive all 49 outstanding games, as well as remaining fixtures in the Championship, League One and League Two, was made following a controversial vote in April that saw 81 per cent of clubs back the move. 

Football at all tiers in Scotland is suspended until 10 June at the earliest and Uefa had asked associations to either declare results or set out plans to play the remaining games by a 25 May deadline.