Project Restart – clubs asked to consider overseas staff recalls

The entrance to Norwich City's training ground at Colney Picture: Tony Thrussell

The entrance to Norwich City's training ground at Colney Picture: Tony Thrussell - Credit: Tony Thrussell

The Premier League has advised clubs to consider recalling their players and staff from abroad ahead of a possible return to training in May.

With the season ground to a halt since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, many foreign players have returned to their homeland.

But with ‘Project Restart’ working towards seeing the Premier League back up and running behind closed doors in early June, it is understood the governing body has written to clubs suggesting they should think about returning their players to this country.

They were clear, though, that any return to training next month is subject to the easing of lockdown measures and will be as a result of government advice. The government’s next lockdown restrictions review is due on May 7, but some Premier League clubs are returning to training.

Some Premier League teams have returned to training grounds while players of other teams are still in self-isolation.

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Norwich City’s training ground at Colney is available for players, but they have to book individual slots and they must train alone – they are monitored and social distancing has to be maintained at all times. They are also told to change at home and eat at home.

Club sporting director Stuart Webber has said: “No player should be asked to return, or staff members, until people are very comfortable that the environment that you are asking them to return to is safe, because that is the most important thing.”

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The Professional Footballers’ Association has been involved in discussions over how players can safely return to training and matches.

Its deputy chief executive Bobby Barnes said: “We have reiterated that players are not just footballers but partners, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who share the same health concerns as everyone else during this pandemic.

“We have been assured of the intentions of all that there would be no resumption unless guarantees of safety could be given to the players. The overriding principle for all parties is the health and safety of all participants on and off the field and of course the wider public.”

The picture in continental Europe is mixed: the German Bundesliga is preparing to return to action next month, subject to the approval of the authorities, while individual training has been approved to resume in Spain from May 4 and group training has been given the green light in Italy from May 18. The French and Dutch leagues have been forced to end though following directives at national government level in those countries.

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