By Peter Ayoade
Premier League clubs will vote on proposals for a return to contact training on Wednesday as the English top-flight seeks to take another step closer to resuming the season next month.
New UK government guidelines issued on Sunday allow for the return of “close contact” training, including tackling, to help players step up their match fitness ahead of a return to competitive action.
“This type of training would start with smaller ‘clusters’ of 2-3 athletes and eventually progress to larger groups of 4-12 athletes, and ultimately full team training,” added the government advice.
Premier League clubs returned to training in small and socially distanced groups last week.
Players and managers are to be consulted in a meeting on Tuesday before the proposals are put to a vote of the 20 clubs.
Results of the latest round of COVID-19 testing, which is taking place on Monday and Tuesday, will also be published on Wednesday.
The small number of positive tests from the first two rounds of testing at Premier League clubs has raised hopes of a return in June.
Eight cases of coronavirus among players and staff have been detected from 1,744 tests in the Premier League.
In the Championship, just two positive tests were registered from 1,014 tests.
How to proceed in the event of a positive test once contact training has restarted is one of the topics that will be discussed by clubs later this week.
A targeted return date of June 12 was described by Premier League chief executive Richard Masters last week as a “staging post”.
Players and coaches have argued they will need until at least the end of June to mitigate the risk of a spate of injuries after such a long layoff.
There has been no action in the Premier League since March 9.
However, the biggest hurdle to a return remains players’ fears over their safety and that of their families due to the virus.
Watford captain Troy Deeney has not returned to training after three positive cases were registered by the Hornets over concerns he could spread the virus to his five-month-old son.
French World Cup winner N’Golo Kante has also been given permission by Chelsea to train at home.
Germany’s Bundesliga has already managed to complete two rounds of fixtures since returning behind closed doors and there has been little player opposition to La Liga’s plans to return in Spain from June 11.
“With what’s happened in Germany, I’ve got no doubt the vote will go ahead and the clubs will vote to try to get phase two going,” former Liverpool and England midfielder Jamie Redknapp told Sky Sports.
“I also think there’ll be a situation where more players will opt out, which is their prerogative, but with the success in Germany — it’s not been great, it’s not the product we really like, with no fans there, but at least it’s football — I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t go ahead.”