The Latest: Government says EPL can go for June 17 restart
The Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:
The English Premier League was given government approval on Saturday to press ahead with its June 17 restart, although players will have to stay apart during goal celebrations and disputes to maintain social distancing.
Further details of the league’s plans for dealing with coronavirus cases have been disclosed with clubs likely to have to play even if they only have 15 fit squad members.
The season was suspended in March but training has resumed in the last two weeks and the government is now willing to allow games without fans if coronavirus prevention protocols are followed by those in stadiums.
Sports events will be allowed to resume in England from Monday, without any spectators and providing they comply with the government’s coronavirus protocols.
The guidance for elite sports bodies was published by the government on Saturday as COVID-19 lockdown restrictions that were imposed in March are eased further.
It paves the way for the planned June 17 return of the Premier League, the world’s richest soccer competition. The guidance includes a request that social distancing must be maintained in matches “during any disputes between players and referees, or scoring celebrations.”
France’s former sports minister says the government was too hasty in calling off soccer leagues this season.
The French leagues were canceled after Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said in late April they could not resume because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Patrick Kanner, sports minister from 2014-17, thinks the leagues were pressured into canceling.
Speaking on France Inter radio on Saturday, Kanner said “they were not given any choice” and that “maybe we could have resumed playing in June.”
Kanner added that “there were healthy protocols in place” in case the leagues could resume “of course without fans” at the stadiums.
France is the only one of Europe’s five major soccer leagues to cancel its season.
Games in Germany have already resumed and they are set to do so in England, Italy and Spain next month.
The South African government maintained a ban on all contact sports competitions on Saturday because of the coronavirus, meaning the country’s professional rugby teams and its world champion Springboks will remain out of action.
The announcement by sports minister Nathi Mthethwa came as South Africa prepares to further ease lockdown on Monday and open up most of its economy as part of a phased relaxation of restrictions.
Professional non-contact sports competitions will be allowed in some regions and Mthethwa gave permission for teams, including those in rugby, to resume training. But only if protocols are in place to minimize the chances of transmission of COVID-19. All teams have 14 days to submit detailed plans on their protocols for approval before they can train, the minister said. Conditions include the mandatory screening of athletes.
South Africa Rugby CEO Jurie Roux welcomed the move as “an opportunity for our players to enhance their lockdown training regimes by increasing their fitness work for an eventual return to play.” He added he would seek clarification over whether full-contact training would be allowed.
Premier League clubs with only 15 fit players are still likely to have to play matches if the season resumes as planned next month during the coronavirus pandemic.
West Ham vice chair Karren Brady has disclosed new details of Thursday’s conference call of clubs when they agreed to restart the season on June 17, pending government approval.
The season was suspended in March after positive COVID-19 cases at Arsenal and Chelsea forced the squads into self-isolation.
Brady said the latest virtual meeting of club executives featured a long discussion about “what constitutes having a team fit enough to compete in the games left to play.”
Most teams, including West Ham, have nine games remaining.
“There are obvious and genuine concerns about what happens to your match results if your club has a number of players testing positive for coronavirus, or is in self-isolation, and as a result you simply cannot field your usual or strongest starting XI,” Brady wrote in a column in Saturday’s editions of “The Sun” newspaper.
“Well, as long as you have 15 fit players (including one goalkeeper) made up from either your 25-man squad list or from your under-21s you will be deemed to have a team fit enough to fulfill the fixture.”
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