The Premier League protocol for resuming training and games seems to be weaker than the one the Italian Government rejected for Serie A, as clubs demand better treatment than local gyms.
The issue of how to resume sport after the coronavirus pandemic is becoming increasingly tense, as while Ligue 1 has been definitively shut down for the 2019-20 season – reportedly with PSG crowned champions despite not completing the campaign – with Belgium and the Netherlands also closing early.
Meanwhile, this morning Italian Minister for Sport Vincenzo Spadafora announced in no uncertain terms that the situation is in the balance.
“If the protocol is agreed by all parties, training will resume and this will have a positive impact on possibly resuming the season,” Spadafora told Rai 3.
“Vice versa, if there is no agreement on the safety protocol, the Government will decree – due to a public health emergency – that the season is over, even if it means creating the conditions to ensure the football world doesn’t suffer as many damages.
“Essentially, we will take on that responsibility.”
However, also today, Spadafora stated that the Government was “hoping to open up gyms, swimming pools, dance halls and sporting centres from May 18.”
This would treat professional athletes in team sports the same way as any random citizen, whereas athletes in individual sports such as tennis can return to training from May 4.
Indeed, anyone can go running in a local park from May 4, but an athlete cannot do the same in a training centre where they can be walled off, social distancing guaranteed and testing performed.
Italy want to follow the Spanish Model, which would see training in centres using social distancing from May 4.
The protocol put forward by the Premier League, called Project Restart, seems to be far more lenient than the one rejected by the Italian Government.
In the Italian model, players and staff would be subjected to COVID-19 swab and blood tests every day for the first week, then once a week after that.
The Premier League model only requires one test 48 hours before a return to group training.
The other basic elements – wearing masks, footballs and facilities disinfected every day, fluids kept separate for each individual and designated time slots to ensure social distancing – are the same.
Despite all that, some clubs including Arsenal are already back at their training ground, something Italian clubs won’t be allowed to do for several more weeks.
That is despite the fact the daily death rate in England is currently far higher than the Italian one.
In fact, this afternoon President of the ISS health institute Silvio Brusaferro announced that “the R value in all regions is under 1, and that is a very positive piece of data.”
It means the average is for one person to infect one other, so the outbreak is slowing significantly and largely under control.
“There are now only 74 towns in seven regions that can be considered Red Zones.”
All of those are in the north of Italy, largely centred in and around Lombardy and Piedmont.
It is causing tension with the south of Italy, who want to start opening up businesses considering they are at a relatively low risk of contagion.