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Explained: Premier League in the time of Covid-19, a whole different ball game

English Premier League 2020: Stadiums for the rest of the season have been dived into three zones and among others, spitting and nose-clearing will be banned.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: June 18, 2020 8:16:23 am
English Premier League, English Premier League schedule, English Premier League begins, coronavirus, express explained, indian express A sanitisation station at Villa Park stadium, a day ahead of the English Premier League soccer match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United, at Villa Park in Birmingham, England, on June 16. (Photo: AP)

With the Premier League restarting on Wednesday, behind closed doors, the authorities have issued strict protocols to ensure “stadiums are as safe as possible for everybody present”. Stadiums for the rest of the season have been dived into three zones and among others, spitting and nose-clearing will be banned.

Here’s the low-down:

How are match venues being made safe?

To start with, not more than 300 people can be present at a stadium on a match day. Safety measures have been put in place after doing Covid-19 stadium risk assessments. Clubs have been directed to “establish a security plan to ensure access to the stadium is only granted to accredited individuals”.

How will teams travel to matches?

Teams can travel “via car, coach, plane or train”, but social-distancing hygiene protocols have to be adhered to. People driving their own vehicle should travel alone. As per the UK Government legislations, “hotels should be for essential use only”.

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What is stadium zoning?

For the rest of the season, stadiums have been divided into three zones – Red, Amber and Green. Red Zone includes “the pitch, technical area, tunnel and dressing rooms”. Red Zone is meant for only those who have undergone Covid tests in the five days prior to a match.

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With regards to Amber Zone, as per the Premier League guidelines: “This covers all areas of the stadium interior with the exception of the Red Zone, including stands, concourses and pitch-side interview areas.” Green Zone is the area outside the stadium with access control points, parking lot etc.

What about disinfecting the venue?

Clubs, home teams to be precise, will be in charge of this. Everything, from goal posts to match-ball, dugouts, corner poles and flags, substitution boards and changing facilities will have to be disinfected.

How is the testing programme?

The Premier League commenced its Covid-19 testing programme on May 17, “with tests of players and staff at all 20 clubs conducted twice weekly”. If someone is tested positive, he/she must go into self-isolation for a period of seven days. The whole team will not have to be quarantined.

What are the dos and don’ts on the pitch?

Spitting and/or nose-clearing are banned. Players will have to maintain distance during goal celebrations. Handshakes are not allowed. “No mass confrontations” have been ordered.

Do the players need to wear face masks?

The Premier League says: “Attendees with the exception of players and coaching staff on team benches must wear face coverings. This will also be waived at certain times for broadcast presenters and commentators, under social-distancing guidelines”.

Home teams must ensure that “hand sanitiser dispensers are freely available throughout the stadium, as well as clearly signposting handwashing facilities”.

What are the dressing room protocols?

Dressing rooms for players and match officials should have “adequate space” to ensure social-distancing. If this requires additional rooms to be added, clubs will have to arrange that. Use of showers is permitted “as long as individuals are socially distanced”.

Will the teams enter the pitch together?

No, it will be staggered for players and match officials. “There should be no congregation in or around the tunnel area at any time”… At some venues, different tunnels could be used. Players will line up for the pre-match Premier League anthem maintaining social-distancing.

Will there be ballboys?

No. Spare match balls will be there around the pitch and referees will offer guidance “in managing the process”. No surrounding match officials will be present though.

Will there be any mid-game break apart from half-time?

Drinks break, “lasting no longer than one minute” will be taken in each half. Time will be added on at the end of each half. Players have to drink from their own water bottles.

Will the technical area look different?

It will be expanded to ensure social distancing. “This can include using seats next to the bench or reallocating seats to provide the required distance between people”.

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Five substitutes can be used per match instead of three and nine players can sit on the bench rather than seven.

What about on-pitch medical treatment?

Team medics and paramedics will have to wear “appropriate PPE, including a surgical face mask, disposable gloves and a disposable plastic apron”. Two members will be permitted in the Red Zone as stretcher bearers.

Will anti-doping tests be conducted?

Yes, by observing social-distancing protocols. Anti-doping officials will undergo Covid-19 tests before being allowed to enter the Red Zone.

Are media interviews permitted?

Post-match interviews are permitted, but once again social distancing protocols have to be adhered to. Huddle interviews are banned. Post-match pressers will be virtual.

How often match officials are being tested?

The Premier League says: “They are now being tested at the same regularity as Premier League players, and will follow the exact same protocols.”

Will VAR still be in use?

Yes, at Stockley Park. But there will be a “different configuration to the usual VAR Hub set-up in order to allow for social distancing”.

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