The Premier League’s challenge of resuming during the coronavirus pandemic was underscored Sunday when Brighton announced a player had tested positive just as clubs prepare for fresh talks on how they can create safe conditions to play again.
Brighton chief executive Paul Barber said the club’s COVID-19 case was “a concern,” with players still only training individually at the club. It reinforces how players could potentially spread the coronavirus if the government approves the reintroduction of group training and lifts the shut down of sports that has been in place since March.
The 20 Premier League clubs are due to hold a conference call on Monday after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the nation on Sunday night setting out the stages for lifting the lockdown. The government has said it wants to see the return of the Premier League to “lift the spirits of the nation.”
Even though fans will not be allowed in stadiums, the league’s “Project Restart” faces resistance from clubs who will not approve plans to use neutral venues. Watford claims to now be among at least six clubs insistent on being allowed to play at home — including Brighton — despite police saying that is not feasible.
Brighton has not named the player who was informed Saturday of his positive coronavirus test. There is no need for other members of the squad or coaches to self-isolate because players have only worked in isolation when at the training base, the south-coast club told The Associated Press.
Brighton said three players have now had the coronavirus, having announced the first diagnosis in March. Government social distancing regulations prevent players training together.
“One of the things we’ve asked the Premier League for is a complete plan of all of the stages of returning to play,” Barber told broadcaster Sky Sports on Sunday. “First we need to get players back training in small groups, then they need to get involved in some contact training and then training for a match before the match itself.
“So there are lots of stages, it’s very complex and there are people at the Premier League working very hard to produce detailed paperwork to move through those stages as safely as possible.”
Brighton is only two points clear of the relegation zone with nine games remaining so does not want to give away home advantage for five of those fixtures, which include leader Liverpool and defending champion Manchester City due to visit the Amex Stadium.
Steve Parish, the chairman of mid-table Crystal Palace, has been a rare public voice from within the Premier League supporting plans that envisage a June restart.
“There are no easy answers, we have to work through it as a collective and I think we will and come out with a consensus in the end,” Parish told the BBC. ”(The meeting) is another part of the journey in trying to get football back. We would be derelict in our duty if we did not find a way for the game to come back.
“It may prove beyond us, we have huge challenges in order to get it back to complete the season but we are planning on doing so.”
The planned resumption of football in Germany next weekend has already hit problems.
Dynamo Dresden will not be able to play Hannover after two players tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday, forcing the entire squad, coaching and supervisory staff to enter 14 days of quarantine at home.