Doctors and medics from all top 20 Premier League clubs have sent a joint email to the Premier League Doctors’ Group (PLDG) in which they have listed over 100 concerns about a return to training by players. In turn, their issues have been shared with the Premier League and widely leaked to the media.
Broadly they feel that there is pressure being exerted on them as medical professionals to provide reassurance to players and staff that it is safe to return to work as regards the Covid-19 – about which they know very little themselves. There is a resultant fear that they could be held liable if somebody falls ill – or, conceivably even dies – once players resume training again.
Specific concerns include the increased risk to players of a BAME background (Black and Minority Ethnic) who have proved particularly susceptible to the disease, and the possibility of transmission through sweat or goalkeepers’ gloves.
There is a perception that medical staff are coming under pressure to sanction a return to action again from club owners, desperate to staunch growing financial losses, despite the coronavirus not being under control in the UK.
On Tuesday, it was announced that the number of deaths from the virus in the country has now exceeded that of Italy, and it now has the unwelcome distinction of being the country in Europe with the highest number of fatalities.
Meanwhile, over in Spain, the players and staff of Eibar have issued a statement, independently of the club, expressing their fears that restarting competitive matches in the country again could lead to a second wave of the virus in the country.
They maintain that it will be impossible to maintain social distancing on the field, and that, given football is a contact sport, making them play again puts them at increased risk of catching the disease and in turn, passing it to their family and friends.
All of this just ratchets up the pressure further on all concerned. The UK government has previously said that it supports a return to football again, albeit it under strictly controlled conditions. Clubs and broadcasters also want a resumption of the season on economic grounds.
However, there is the overriding risk to health. Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero has already said that players are scared to return to action during the pandemic. There must be a real concern that the economic imperatives may force players and staff to take unnecessary risks to their health for the sake of the bottom-line.