While many restrictions are lifted in football, the coronavirus pandemic will continue to affect the game in England
The new English football season kicks off this weekend with the EFL Cup games – but does a spate of canceled preseason games suggest another campaign will be disrupted by the coronavius pandemic?
The Bournemouth and Sheffield Wednesday games are the first competitive home games to have been played without coronavirus restrictions since March 2020.
Covid-19 infections remain high – even though they fall – and a nationwide Recording of self-isolation warnings from the NHS contact tracing has raised concerns of a. guided ‘pingdemic’ to extend to football. In the past few days, a number of preseason games have been interrupted or canceled due to outbreaks or problems tracking close contacts.
The Manchester United friendly at Preston on Saturday is the newest canceled due to positive cases, While Norwich was similarly affected, Arsenal canceled their US pre-season tour and Newcastle three goalkeepers lost for self-isolation for a device.
So is there any potential for chaos at the start of the season?
BBC Sport is investigating the changes made and why football might have a problem.
Higher Risk Players
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain took photos with fans on Thursday after Liverpool’s pre-season game against Hertha Berlin in Austria
Last season the Professional Footballers’ Association paid for testing players across the English football league at an estimated cost of £ 5 million.
This term does not need to be tested.
It is recognized by all parties that players are at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus or being “pinged” in close contact than last season – because footballers lived in strict “elite” bubbles and far less interaction had with the public, both professionally and privately.
Now that the restrictions have been lifted for the general public, the leagues are trying to navigate their way through them. This means that clubs currently have no obligation to test players.
The EFL has issued guidelines for both training and match days to all of its clubs. There are two sets of logs under this guide, red and green. Most clubs are subject to the green protocols which rely on daily screening to see if players or staff are showing symptoms. The EFL thinks this is better than just doing nothing.
Red logs would be triggered if there was a local coronavirus outbreak; if local or national restrictions have been imposed by the government; or when EFL doctors, during spot checks in clubs, determine that regulations are not being followed.
The transition to red protocols would be made by the league after consultation with the clubs and would involve testing.
Hillsborough will be welcoming fans again at the start of the season
For Sunday’s EFL Cup game in Hillsborough, BBC Sport expects Sheffield Wednesday players will not be tested unless someone reports symptoms.
Huddersfield will be, however.
The terriers believe that a side flow test twice a week is the best way to keep potential problems under control. Huddersfield, which is still receiving parachute payments from the Premier League, is funding these tests.
Obviously, if clubs do not conduct tests, they cannot know for sure how many players or who have coronavirus at any given time.
If, for whatever reason, tests are then carried out, there is a risk that games will be canceled at short notice.
On July 28, Nottingham Forest was forced to withdraw from the behind-closed-door match with Aston Villa scheduled for that day, and Norwich was forced to postpone plans to host Coventry after testing positive.
Forest then withdrew from a match with Burnley, which should be played on July 31st. Chelsea had canceled a preparation game in Dublin hours before kick-off and Arsenal had to withdraw from a tournament in the US after reporting positive tests.
Premier League testing continues
Parking spaces are marked as red zones
The Premier League will continue to test twice a week and publish the results. However, unlike last season when the players had PCR testing, this time around they will be doing lateral flow testing to both reduce costs and speed up the process.
As part of the Premier League’s plan, the number of players and staff performing these tests will be increased to 100. If some are positive, a PCR test will be arranged.
The Premier League will continue to operate red zones for players and executives.
At least in the first weeks of the season, the clubs will be asked to continue the established virtual media conferences both before and after the games.
Questions about the government’s fan plan
In Hillsborough on Sunday, when a crowd of around 8,000 is expected for the first Wednesday game in front of fans since the pandemic began, there will be no social distancing measures in the stands – apart from the media area – and fans will not be obliged To wear masks.
Evidence of vaccination status or previous negative tests are not required.
However, with a club that averaged over 24,000 last season closed out without restrictions, officials are taking note of the plan to make this mandatory for stadiums with attendances of 20,000 or more – to be tested in the preparatory games at Chelsea and Tottenham next month – and wonder how this can be realistically implemented on a busy game day.
After two campaigns played in the shadow of the pandemic, the clubs are hoping that this season this season could slowly return to some sort of normalcy.