Six key issues for Canaries fans ahead of latest Project Restart vote
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Ahead of today’s Premier League meeting, we’ve taken a look at the latest issues surrounding Project Restart which Norwich City fans need to know.
Will team training restart this week?
Returning to team training is set to be the main subject of today’s shareholder meeting, with the video conference set to feature a vote on teams being allowed to train in small groups with no contact.
That vote is expected to pass without any problems as clubs are largely prepared for the initial training protocols, of players training in small groups, with strict social distancing and hygiene rules in place to minimise the risk of anyone contracting coronavirus.
Currently City players are restricted to using the Lotus Training Centre at Colney for individual work, with a schedule to minimise contact with others and the canteen and changing facilities still not in use.
The Telegraph report today’s vote will begin a five-week plan aimed at returning to action on June 19, with ‘phase one’ expected to start as early as Tuesday.
What about full-contact training?
Players will have to return to full training before playing matches can be considered, with the hope of creating hygienic enough conditions for players to operate safely at training grounds, while still taking precautions in their home lives.
This will feature regular Covid-19 testing, with all players and off-field staff to be tested twice a week, with phase one to reportedly last up to 14 days, making way for a return to full team training for three weeks ahead of the restart.
Canaries sporting director Stuart Webber and captain Grant Hanley have both already spoken about having limited concerns about phase one, pointing to the need for more information about phase two being needed before players can feel comfortable with the plans - with the Premier League expected to supply those details early this week.
All precautions possible will continue to be taken moving forward, as seen in Germany this weekend with players and staff on the sidelines still wearing masks and sitting at least two metres apart.
Is this taking testing capacity away from the NHS?
This has been a difficult issue for football to navigate, with government officials insisting care workers do now have adequate supplies to combat the pandemic but regular media reports from health professionals argue to the contrary.
However, the Premier League has reportedly spent £38,000 on personal protective equipment (PPE) so far, with national newspapers quoting a spokesperson at the weekend as saying: “The Premier League will supply personal protective equipment to club medical staff to treat players requiring essential treatment.
“This has been sourced from UK suppliers, is fully approved and will not compromise NHS stock.”
Wolves last week became the first club to unveil drive-through testing facilities at their training ground, with all top-flight clubs expected to follow with something similar, as part of a reported £4m agreement between the Premier League and Hong Kong-based genetic testing company Prenetics.
It’s unclear what would happen if a player were to test positive for coronavirus but in Germany the Dynamo Dresden squad and staff had to quarantine for 14 days, preventing them from resuming their Bundesliga 2 season this weekend alongside other clubs - leaving their fixtures to be rescheduled.
Will relegation be unaffected?
It seems so, with the Football League (EFL) stating on Friday that Championship clubs intend to resume their season, with City chief Webber among those in the Premier League insisting that clubs need to conclude their season to earn promotion.
However, the issue remains complex, with League Two cancelling their season and opting for a weighted points-per-game method of settling the final table, but with play-offs to still go ahead to help with avoiding large broadcast rebates.
With League One’s future uncertain due to a split in views from clubs and with the third tier already being a team down after Bury’s financial collapse, League Two clubs had voted for no relegation to the National League.
However, the Daily Mail reported this weekend that the EFL board are wary of ratifying that League Two vote and setting a precedent of no relegation, due to worries that Premier League clubs could cite that if seasons aren’t able to be concluded amid the continuing work to combat the pandemic.
For Norwich, sitting six points from safety with nine games to play, the only way to certainty is by doing enough on the pitch to survive when the season does restart - to complete the “little miracle” head coach Daniel Farke has targeted.
Are games being played at neutral venues?
This issue appears likely to soon come to an end, with the majority of Premier League clubs reportedly opposed to the idea both in terms of logistics and due to potential rebates which would be owed to sponsors, if stadium advertising goes unseen.
Ensuring supporters do not gather outside stadiums on match-days remains a concern but did not prove to be an issue as football restarted in Germany’s top two tiers at the weekend, although clubs will reportedly face a bill of around £750,000 each to ensure necessary stewarding and security is in place.
Another vote, potentially later this week, will reportedly see Premier League clubs finalise their decision on neutral venues - with the method of settling the final table also due to be settled, as a precaution for the season not being concluded.
Uefa has set a deadline of May 25 for leagues to report their plans for resuming, with the hope of all leagues concluding ahead of the Champions League final in late August, so that 2020-21 campaigns can potentially start in September or October.
Will fans be able to watch games?
The government has given the green light to sport potentially returning in June, if the UK’s coronavirus reproduction rate remains low enough, but for broadcast and without spectators.
Premier League cubs had been bracing for a potentially disastrous loss of expected broadcast income of £762million if the season could not be completed, but that rebate will reportedly drop to £330m if the season resumes, much of which is expected to be to overseas broadcasters.
That financial impact would be felt throughout the English football pyramid, both in solidarity payments made to lower leagues and in the transfer market being hit badly, which often leads to funds dripping down the leagues - if a top-flight club buys a Championship player and that club then buys a League One player, for example.
Of the 92 matches remaining, 47 had already been chosen for live broadcast and the Mirror reported at the weekend that another 32 will be shared between Sky and BT, with Amazon Prime to show “a handful” of games and the BBC to be able to show five matches live on terrestrial TV.