Momentum behind completing the halted Premier League season has picked up, with the clubs and the British government bulldozing roadblocks in the way of a June restart. While an official end to the pandemic lockdown is not yet in sight, points of contention including the need for select neutral venues, the cooperation of the police, and the logistics of regular testing have been aggressively addressed.
One set of stakeholders whose opinion is crucial is that of the medical staff of all 20 club Premier League clubs. The Athletic has reported that the Premier League Doctors’ Group (PLDG) subsequently sent an email on Monday listing almost 100 questions to the league’s medical advisor Mark Gillett and director of football Richard Garlick, expressing their concerns over restarting football amidst the global coronavirus pandemic.
The list of questions were divided into 10 sub-groups but mostly revolved around:
- Approving guidelines that still carry risk of death
- Liability, insurance and testing for players, staff and their families
- Possible transmission via sweat and goalkeeper gloves
- Suspicions that some clubs are already ignoring guidelines
- Increased risk for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups
- Ability of emergency services to attend training ground incidents
For instance, one notable point involved whether player concerns over to the risks to their families are valid or whether preliminary linkages between COVID-19 and instances of premature birth for pregnant victims of the virus or inflammatory syndrome in children can be dismissed with any certainty.
Another concern raised revolves around whether the prospect of heavy athletic training lowers player immunity and increases the risk of contracting the virus; while the very real question of where liability lies in the treatment of players and staff is also up in the air.
The PLDG has sought to get out ahead of the leak, with Zaf Iqbal, the Crystal Palace team doctor and chair of the PLDG coming out yesterday to dubiously clarify that the points in the letter represented the views of only four of the 20 club doctors.
Nevertheless, the sheer number of concerns listed in the email highlights the complexity of a return to football, and is a reminder that the proposed June 12 restart could be aggressive considering that the players union are yet to outline their own stance.