Brighton Covid-19 case highlights challenges facing ‘Project Restart’
● Club confirms third player has tested positive for coronavirus
The risks involved in resuming the English Premier League were underscored yesterday after a Brighton player contracted the coronavirus as clubs prepare for fresh talks on how they can create safe conditions to play again during the pandemic.
Brighton chief executive Paul Barber said the club’s Covid-19 case was “a concern,” with players still only training individually at the club. It reinforces how players could potentially spread the coronavirus if the government approves the reintroduction of group training and lifts the shutdown of sports that has been in place since March. The 20 Premier League clubs are due to hold a conference call today after Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night set out the steps for easing the national lockdown while maintaining social distancing.
Johnson made no mention of the return of professional sports. The government, however, said last week it wants to see the return of the Premier League to “lift the spirits of the nation” when it was safe.
Even though fans will not be allowed in stadiums, the league’s “Project Restart” faces resistance from clubs who will not approve plans to use neutral venues. Watford claim to be among at least six clubs insistent on being allowed to play at home – including Brighton – despite police saying that is not feasible.
Brighton have not named the player who was informed on Saturday of his positive coronavirus test. There is no need for other members of the squad or coaches to self-isolate because players have only worked in isolation when at the training base, the club said.
Brighton said three players have now had the coronavirus, having announced the first diagnosis in March.
“Oneofthethingswe’veasked the Premier League for is a complete plan of all of the stages of returning to play,” Barber told Sky Sports. “First we need to get players back training in small groups, then they need to get involved in some contact training and then training for a match before the match itself. 2 Brighton chief executive Paul Barber said the Premier League club’s latest coronavirus case was ‘a concern’
So there are lots of stages, it’s very complex and there are people at the Premier League working very hard to produce detailed paperwork to move through those stages as safely as possible.”
Brighton are only two points clear of the relegation zone with nine games remaining so do not want to give away home advantage for five of those fixtures, which include the visits of leaders Liverpool and second-place Manchester City to the Amex Stadium.
“People will accuse us of selfinterest, I totally understand that, but at this stage of the season there is self-interest at every level of the table,” said Barber.
Steve Parish, the chairman of mid-table Crystal Palace, has been a rare public voice from within the Premier League supporting plans that envisage a June restart.
“There are no easy answers, we have to work through it as a collective and I think we will and come out with a consensus in the end,” Parish told the BBC. “It may prove beyond us, we have huge challenges in order to get it back to complete the season but we are planning on doing so.”
The planned resumption of football in Germany next weekend has already hit problems. Dynamo Dresden will not be able to play Hannover after two players tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday, forcing the entire squad, coaching and supervisory staff to enter 14 days of quarantine at home.