May 1 (Reuters) - England’s Premier League, on hold since March 9 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, will consult with club managers and players over ‘Project Restart’ while the UK government stepped up planning for sports as a whole on Friday.
The league held a conference call of all 20 clubs top-flight and swapped ideas on the possible plans for resuming training and eventually a return to playing matches.
“No decisions were taken at today’s Shareholders’ meeting and clubs exchanged views on the information provided regarding Project Restart,” the Premier League said in a statement.
“It was agreed that the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association), LMA (League Managers Association), players and managers are key to this process and will be further consulted.
“The clubs reconfirmed their commitment to finishing the 2019/20 season, maintaining integrity of the competition and welcomed the Government’s support,” it added.
“The League and clubs are considering the first tentative moves forward and will only return to training and playing with Government guidance, under expert medical advice and after consultation with players and managers,” he said.
The first step for any move forward will be the UK government’s review of lockdown restrictions due on May 7.
The cabinet minister responsible for sport, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, on Friday held the first formal meeting of a cross-sports body set up to examine the practicalities of resuming professional sport.
“I know (Britons) desperately want sport back on,” Dowden wrote on twitter. “We just kicked off the first of many detailed meetings to plan for a safe return of elite sport behind closed doors when, and only when, it is safe to do so on the basis of expert medical advice. Lots to consider, but today we step up planning.”
English cricket’s governing body, the ECB, has been charged with leading the planning effort for all sports and is looking at ways to play sport behind closed-doors in ‘bio-secure’ venues.
A spokesperson for the Departure of Culture Media and Sports said: “We held an initial, constructive meeting with medical representatives from a number of professional and elite sports bodies, government and PHE (Public Health England) to step up planning on what may need to be done so that athletes could return to training, when it is deemed safe to do so.
“This would be ahead of any return to competitive top-level sport which would only happen when medical experts advise that this can be done safely. Discussions with the sports bodies will continue on this.” (Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris)