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Premier League Players Push Back Against Pressure To Finish Season

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Coronavirus worries top the list of player concerns as the Premier League unveils plans to play the remaining fixtures.

The players tunnel at Anfield Stadium Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Holland was first and now France has followed to become the second country to call an end to their truncated domestic season. While the Premier League has unveiled its plan to complete the formality of crowning Liverpool champions in its dramatically-titled Project Restart, sources across the league are reporting on the beginnings of a push back from a number of players about playing during a global pandemic.

An investigation by a number of club-connected journalists at The Athletic has revealed that while most of the players are committed to finishing out the season, there are still a significant number concerned about some of the practical considerations, including requirements that they self-quarantine away from their families for the proposed six weeks of accelerated football.

The pressure to find playing solutions despite the coronavirus lockdowns across Europe has been increasing, particularly in the continent’s larger leagues with higher financial stakes. The German football authorities are already moving towards a restart while La Liga has started the groundwork to do the same. As for the Premier League, it arguably has one of the strongest incentives to complete the 92 remaining fixtures due to the potential £726m in broadcast revenue that might need to be repaid were the season to be ended prematurely.

Even the British government has weighed in, holding meetings with the clubs to discuss restarting the season as a way to “boost public spirits” amidst a nationwide lockdown and impeding economic malaise. Clubs have begun instructing their players to prepare to report for individual training as early as May 3 with an eye to begin team training as early as May 18.

However, the growing momentum has not been universally praised in all corners, not least due to discomfort with the idea of prioritizing entertainment at the potential expense of public health. The concerns have arisen from players themselves down through the club hierarchies to the matchday staff.

The report highlights confusion amongst club doctors unsure of how to advise their players to proceed, while backroom staff are voicing complaints that their safety is not being properly considered. The hurdles for the players themselves are myriad, from the months-long isolation in hotels away from family in need of support during the fixture schedule to potential pressure of pressed squads rushing players back from injury to simply not wanting to play in unnerving closed door atmospheres.

The consensus therefore appears to be that there is no consensus on how the season will be completed and that the proposed June 8th restart is highly optimistic. Health comes before all; and while football fans the world over would love nothing more than to get back to watching the game we all love, it would appear that we shouldn’t be holding our breath for it to be happening with any haste.