How Premier League matches will be different behind closed doors. A guide to the safety measures in place during the matches as released on the official premier league website and twitter account @premierleague on Tuesday !6th June 2020. The Guidelines are broken down into 3 parts.
Before the match
Making the stadiums safe
Premier League clubs have worked with local authorities and others to minimise the risk to public health and the reliance on local health and other emergency services. Clubs must ensure that stadium access is only for specific people. In total, about 300 will be allowed at stadium for each match until the end of the season. Stadiums will be divided into three zones: red, amber and green. Each zone has unique protocols and procedures and are only accessible to particular people.
Red Zone: Only people who have had tests in the five days before a match can enter. The zone includes the pitch, the technical area, the tunnel and the dressing rooms. These people must have a “clinical passport”, a bar code either as a print-out or on their phone. This is scanned to check their most recent test result is negative before they can enter the stadium. The maximum number of people allowed in this zone is 110.
Amber Zone: This covers all areas of the inside of the stadium with the exception of the Red Zone. It includes stands, concourses and pitchside interview areas. Entry and exit points are strictly managed and, to gain access, individuals must have completed a medical questionnaire, as well as having their temperature checked on arrival.
Green Zone: This is the area outside the stadium, where access control points, vehicle parking and outside broadcast compounds and units are located. Access will be granted in accordance with the clubs COVID-19 policy.
Players’ journeys to the stadium: In line with the Return to Training Protocol, players and staff are required to still undergo daily screening. Before leaving for a match, they must complete relevant checks for COVID-19 and report any symptoms. Teams can travel to the stadium via car, coach, plane or train, but must do so in sterile environments. In all of these transport modes, they must apply social distancing, with appropriate space between occupied seats and full hygiene measures observed. Those players or staff driving their own vehicles should do so alone. In line with Government legislations, hotels should be for essential use only. If hotels are used, risk assessment and mitigating measures should be applied.
When players arrive at the stadium: On arriving at the stadium, players and staff will be given a sterile route from their vehicles to the dressing room. The dressing rooms for teams and match officials must have enough space to allow for suitable social-distancing. This may mean additional rooms are used. Teams will be encouraged to stagger their use of changing rooms, while showers can be used, as long as individuals remain socially distanced.
Use of the players tunnel: At some stadiums, teams will use different tunnels. Where there is one tunnel, players and match officials will stagger their journeys to and from the pitch before, during and after a match. They should not gather in or around the tunnel area at any time, and there should be no handshakes inside the tunnel.
Pre-match warm-ups: During the warm-ups, players and officials should seek to minimise close contact.
Hygiene in the stadium: Clubs must apply strict cleaning measures at stadiums, with widespread disinfection taking place. This will include, but is not limited to, changing facilities, dugouts, matchballs, goalposts, corner flags and substitution boards. Hand-sanitiser dispensers must be freely available throughout the stadium, as well as hand-washing facilities being clearly signposted. People other than players and coaching staff on team benches must wear face coverings, although this will be waived at certain times for broadcast presenters and commentators, while observing social-distancing guidelines.
During the match
The line-ups: If there is only one tunnel available at the stadium, the away team’s players will enter the pitch first, followed by the home. At some stadiums, teams may be able to use separate tunnels to enter the pitch. Both sets of players must try to maintain social-distancing while entering the pitch. When they line up for the Premier League anthem, rather than form a straight line as before, players will now stand in a staggered formation. The traditional handshakes between the two teams will no longer happen and there will also be no handshakes at the coin toss.
Bigger technical areas: Trainers benches will be expanded to enable social-distancing during the match. This can include using seats next to the bench or reallocating seats to provide the required distance between people. For example, substitutes can be seated in designated areas in the stands behind the benches. Those people in the technical area must maintain social-distancing, with zones marked out to guide them.
Replacement balls: There are no ball assistants in behind-closed-doors matches, so if a match ball goes into the stands, the referee will decide if the ball can be retrieved without a noticeable delay. If not, the referee will allow players to use spare balls placed around the pitch.
Medical treatment: If a player needs treatment on the pitch, any club staff performing physiotherapy or soft-tissue treatment must wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). A paramedic crew of two people will be in the Red Zone and clubs should name two members of Red Zone staff to act as stretcher bearers.
Drinks breaks: The referee will signal for drinks breaks to be taken midway through each half. The breaks should last no longer than a minute, with players drinking from their own bottles. The time taken for the break will be added to the end of the half.
New rules on substitutions: Managers can make use of five substitutes during a match, instead of three, in line with the temporary law amendment made by the International Football Association Board. Teams can also have nine players on the bench rather than seven. But, one manager can make substitutions on only three occasions during a match, not including those made at half-time. Only three substitutes from one team are allowed to warm up at one time.
Match officials and VAR: Premier League match officials have been isolating throughout this period, but have been training regularly, with their fitness monitored. They are being tested as regularly as players, and will follow the same protocols. Video Assistant Referees (VAR) will continue to be in operation for matches, with the configuration of the VAR Hub at IMG Studios, Stockley Park, changed to allow for social-distancing.
Player behavior: Players and managers have been given these guidelines to reduce risk and maximise personal safety.
– Maintain distance during goal celebrations
– No handshakes
– No spitting or nose-clearing
– Use hand-sanitisers before and after every match
– Players should use their own water bottles
– Avoid mass confrontations with opponents or match officials
– Try to restrict interaction with opponents after the match
After the match
After the final whistle, players should seek to restrict their interaction with opponents. Players can use the showers but must maintain social-distancing, while any ice baths are for individual use only.
Warm-downs: With bigger squads and a high number of matches in a short period of time following the restart, the value of warm-downs in clubs fitness programmes is greater. These should last no more than 25 minutes and are likely to be staggered for each team.
Media interviews: All post-match broadcast interviews must take place pitchside with social-distancing followed at all times. Boom microphones must be used by media companies to maintain social-distancing and they must be cleaned between interviews. Huddle interviews are not permitted. Post-match press conferences with managers will be conducted virtually.
Anti-doping tests: These will still be in operation, with social-distancing observed. All anti-doping officials will be tested for COVID-19 before being allowed to enter stadiums Red Zone.Doping control will still be in operation, with social-distancing observed. All anti-doping officials will be tested for COVID-19 before being allowed to attend the Red Zone.
Travelling from the stadium: Players and staff are expected to maintain the same measures as when travelling to the stadium, driving alone in their own vehicles or using coach, plane or train with appropriate space between occupied seats and full hygiene measures observed.
As we wait to see how all these play out in the next few hours when the matches begin again, it is our hope that it is back for good and all everything works out well.
By Kayode Oloniduhi
Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury: Will It Happen?
Heavyweight boxing was having a full run at its peak in this generation before COVID-19 happened and shot down everywhere. The heavyweight division has a rank of boxers who have taken the sport to a new level.
Heavyweight fighters as Tyson Fury, Dillian Whyte, Anthony Joshua, Kubrat Pulev, Deontay Wilder, Oleksandr Usyk, Oscar Rivas, Luis Ortiz, Andy Ruiz, Joseph Parker, Alexander Povetkin, Dereck Chisora, etc have made the division very competitive and brought back its joy and glory days.
At the turn of last year (2019), three of these amazing line up laid claim to the top spots in the division. These three heavyweights Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury had all the belts in the division and we were hoping to have the unification of these belts.
Anthony Joshua was however booked to defend his titles against Jerrell Miller on June 1st 2019. However, on 17th of April 2019, it was announced that Miller failed his doping test and Andy Ruiz was drafted in as a late substitute in a fight that later became the offset of the decade when Andy Ruiz shocked the world and knocked out the champ in the seventh round. Joshua would later win back the titles by unanimous decision in a rematch on December 7.
The 2 other top guns however had clashed on 1st December of 2018 in a fight that controversially ended in a draw, and were billed for a rematch on 22nd February 2020 which saw Tyson Fury with a knock out win.
Since Furys win in the 2nd bout against Wilder, there has been a clamour for the unification bout between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, however, the hope of that happening was shortened when it was announced that Wilder had activated a rematch clause to reclaim his title. A lot of people felt a 3rd fight between Fury and Wilder was unnecessary due to the way Wilder was demolished in the 2nd fight and a lot of people felt he won the first fight which was announced as a draw.
It was a thing of relief yesterday evening (10/6/2020) when Anthony Joshuas promoter Eddie Hearn announced to Sky Sport News that a two-fight deal has been agreed between Joshua and Fury. In his words;
“It’s fair to say [Joshua and Fury] are in agreement regarding the financial terms of the fight.
“We’re in a good place. It’s fair to say that, in principle, both guys have agreed to that fight. Two fights.
“[There’s] a lot to overcome in the meantime. We’re moving in the right direction. I’m confident that both guys have given their blessing for the fight to go ahead.”
Fury is the unbeaten WBC heavyweight champion and Joshua holds the IBF, WBA and WBO titles. Before the undisputed title fight can take place, Fury is contracted to face Deontay Wilder for a third time, Dillian Whyte is also due a mandatory shot at Fury’s belt by February 2021. and Joshua will meet mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev. But this agreement is sure a move in the right direction and one that may lead to the crowning of the best heavyweight champion in this generation.
However, both fighters must be careful not to get ahead of themselves as we may still see some upsets like we saw in Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz (1).
By Kayode Oloniduhi
Finally, The Premier League Returns
The English Premier league (EPL) which played its last game on the 9th of March 2020 is billed to resume on 17th of June 2020.
Corona virus has had a devastating effect on almost all aspect of human life in 2020 and sports have not been exempted. From basketball to rugby to athletics to boxing and even our dearly beloved football. The only sports that seems to have struggled to survive is the Mixed Martial Art (MMA) and Wrestling (that is if you consider WWE to be sports).
Over the past few weeks, while some countries like France and Netherlands have ended their football season by declaring their top clubs as winners as it was before the Corona break, there has been moves to ensure the return of football in other countries. The German bundesliga has resumed even though without the fans in the stadium and the Italian seria A and Spanish laliga are billed to resume in a few days.
However, the English Premier league (EPL) which played its last game on the 9th of March 2020 is billed to resume on 17th of June 2020.
There were initial discussions as to whether to cancel this EPL season or finish it. Canceling the season would have meant no winner for this season after 29 (or 28 in some cases) matches have been played before the break. I honestly believe if the season was canceled, it would have been a great injustice to Liverpool who is topping the table with 25 points above 2nd placed Man. City (who has a game at hand).
Before the COVID-19 enforced break, Liverpool were more or less a ‘Champion in waiting’. Though the decision to play till it finishes seems to be more financially inclined as the league would reportedly have cost about $1.25 billion if it had been cancelled.
We are all excited that our dearly beloved English Premier league is about to return even without the fans in the stadia, but so many questions are waiting to be answered like which form will the players be returning with? How will the players and football fans everywhere react to the matches in an empty stadium? Who will take the UEFA Champions league and the Europa league places? And who will survive the relegation battles and less I forget, how will we all react to the new rules (temporary rule till end of season) which allows each team to make 5 substitutions as opposed to 3 which was the norm?
So many questions begging for answers, so many uncertainty and changes we will all have to adapt to. But all in all we are thankful for the return of our beloved football and English Premier League in particular.
By Kayode Oloniduhi
Tottenham takes £175m loan to ease the financial impact of COVID-19
The club said it estimated a revenue loss of more than £200 million for the period until June 2021 due to the loss of income from matchday revenue, third party live events and other sporting events at their stadium.
The club manager, José Mourinho has said the club are “not going to spend rivers of money” in the next transfer window, whenever that opens, and the bank loan will not be used for new players – rather to provide flexibility and support during what will be a hugely testing time.
Mourinho was told when he joined last November that there would not be a pot of cash for a January squad overhaul; the manager was allowed to sign Steven Bergwijn for £25.4 million (€28.25 million) and this was offset by Christian Eriksen’s £16.9 million (€18.8 million) departure to Inter Milan.
Mourinho’s eyes were wide open as to the financial realities at the club and the situation is even more straitened now.
Spurs said the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Ltd (THS) met the criteria for the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) scheme to avail short-term loans and the funds will not be used to recruit new players.
According to the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy. “I said as early as 18 March that, in all my 20 years at the club, there have been many hurdles along the way but none of this magnitude – the Covid-19 pandemic has shown itself to be the most serious of them all.
“It is imperative that we now all work together – scientists, technologists, the government and the live events sector – to find a safe way to bring spectators back to sport and entertainment venues.
Collectively we have the ability to support the development of new technologies to make this possible and to once again experience the passion of fans at live events,” he said.
By Olatunji Isreal