The Premier League is on course to restart next month after clubs approved plans on Wednesday to resume contact training even as some players are concerned about taking to the field again during the coronavirus pandemic.
The vote by the 20 clubs came after gaining clearance from the government for players to work together as a squad as restrictions are eased across England.
For the last week, players have been working in smaller groups and avoiding contact. The next phase in training sessions still acknowledges the social distancing required in wider society.
“Squads are now able to train as a group and engage in tackling while minimising any unnecessary close contact,” the Premier League said in a statement.
The last game was played on March 9 before the competition was suspended.
Germany’s top division restarted on May 16 and Spain has government approval for games after June 8. England is hoping to resume in the second half in June.
“Discussions are ongoing as work continues towards resuming the season,” the Premier League said, “when conditions allow … when safe to do so.”
Players and staff members at clubs are being tested twice a week for COVID-19. Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale and Watford defender Adrian Mariappa are the only players announced as testing positive for the disease in past week’s tests.
Some players still have reservations about playing – particularly at Watford, which is a place above the relegation zone.
“I’m not in favour of the Premier League returning, in a sense that not everyone is comfortable with it,” Watford backup goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes said in a video interview. “I believe the virus isn’t going away from one day to another. We obviously hope it does, but the problem will remain until a vaccine is developed.”
Watford captain Troy Deeney did not return to training last week over concerns about his son’s health.
“Some players need more time, and that can be a disadvantage to some smaller clubs as they don’t have too many replacements,” Gomes said. “We should only return when everyone is cool about it and we have more time for training and adapting.”