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Government opens the door for competitive football to return safely in June

UK & international sports | Published:

Oliver Dowden chaired a meeting with chief executives from the Premier League, EFL and FA.

The Government has "opened the door" for professional football to return in June

Plans to resume football progressed on Thursday with the Government “opening the door” for a June resumption, according to Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden.

Dowden chaired a meeting with chief executives from the Premier League, EFL and Football Association to discuss plans to restart the season next month.

And he said: “Today’s positive meeting I hosted with the football authorities progressed plans for the resumption of the professional game in England.

“We all agreed that we will only go ahead if it is safe to do so and the health and welfare of players, coaches and staff comes first.

“The Government is opening the door for competitive football to return safely in June.

“This should include widening access for fans to view live coverage and ensure finances from the game’s resumption supports the wider football family.

Cabinet meeting
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden said talks progressed on Thursday (PA)

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“It is now up to the football authorities to agree and finalise the detail of their plans, and there is combined goodwill to achieve this for their fans, the football community and the nation as a whole.

“The Government and our medical experts will continue to offer guidance and support to the game ahead of any final decision which would put these plans into action.”

Deputy chief medical officer for England Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has warned the success of socially-distanced training will determine how soon competitive matches can return.

He said: “We will have to see how that goes before it is time to move on or even think about moving on to the return of competitive football matches.

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Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam spoke at the daily briefing at Downing Street
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam spoke at the daily briefing at Downing Street (Victoria Jones/PA)

“The overall approach with easing social distancing has been one that has been tentative, measured, slow and stepwise, and that is exactly the plan that is under way for all of elite sport – not just football.

“There will be small, carefully measured, stepwise approaches to seeing what can be achieved safely.

“The first of those is, really, to return to safe training, still observing social distancing and measures are taking place, plans are taking place in quite some depth to be ready to do that, and that will be a stepwise thing.”

Meanwhile, Brighton boss Graham Potter has some reservations about a possible return to training next week.

If all goes well then Potter and chief executive Paul Barber revealed some players could return for the first phase of training the following day, which would see players tested before working out individually or in small groups as part of Government guidelines.

Brighton's players could be back in training next Tuesday (John Walton/PA)
Brighton’s players could be back in training next Tuesday (John Walton/PA)

But Potter said: “There are concerns, of course, because we’ve come out of lockdown, the situation isn’t totally resolved.

“I’ve got a young family, my wife’s family have health issues so there are concerns there but there are concerns all over the country as well at the moment, which I recognise.

“But we’re human beings like everybody else, we need that clarity if we can.”

Thursday’s announcement paves the way for the league to resume by the middle of next month but Potter hopes for more guidance.

Speaking via conference call, he added: “It’s nice to have a plan because you can work towards something and you can prepare and you can do your job as best you can.

Glenn Murray has been one of several vocal Brighton figures during the lockdown (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Glenn Murray has been one of several vocal Brighton figures during the lockdown (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“At the same time we know that we’re in a public health crisis and it’s a new situation for everybody so there’s no road map we can follow. From a players and coaches perspective it would be nice to see a pathway going forward.

“We haven’t played for three months. Then also the what if scenarios: What if players get positive results for the virus, what happens there, how does that affect the competition? There’s lots of little bits of detail.

“We want to try to get back playing, the general consensus in our group is we want to play football, finish the season but just to get that detail would be nice.”

Brighton striker Glenn Murray believes the timescale being discussed about a return to action is too soon given the current predicament facing the country.

He told Sky Sports on Thursday morning: “I just can’t understand after just sort of loosening the lockdown why we’re in such a rush to get it back. Why can’t we just wait sort of a month or so to see if things go to plan?”

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