Premier League matchday protocols revealed
Premier League teams playing away from their own stadium are being urged to fly to matches once the season restarts rather than drive and stay in a hotel the night before. The latest medical advice is that travelling by plane is the best way to minimise the risk of infection from Covid-19.
Clubs agreed a host of protocols, designed to make the matchday experience as safe as possible for players, club staff and match officials. Whichever mode of transport they all use, they will be expected to observe social distancing en route; some clubs have already had their coaches reconfigured to accommodate this and will be using more than one vehicle.
Once at the ground those directly involved in the match will follow a sterile route to the dressing rooms which will be larger than before so players can stay well apart. Pre-match warm-ups will take place as usual, although close contact will be minimised at all times. The walk out just before the game will be staggered or, where possible, the teams will emerge from different tunnels, so standing side-by-side ahead of the match is avoided. There will be no handshake before kick-off and players will not wait in one line but in a socially distanced formation while the Premier League anthem is played.
Players will be asked to use a hand sanitiser every time they enter or leave the pitch, they will use their own water bottle at all times and have been asked not to spit or clear their nose during the game, although there will be no sanctions if that does happen.
The dugout area will be made much larger to accommodate the extra number of substitutes and they will be sitting at least two metres apart, but unlike Germany's Bundesliga, they will not be required to wear a face covering. Similarly, the manager’s technical area will be expanded and whoever uses it will be reminded to keep a safe distance from others, including the fourth official.
There will be a one-minute drinks break midway through each half, where players will be expected to stand apart and if anyone needs treatment, club medical staff will be required to wear PPE.
While the emphasis on social distancing may seem counterintuitive given that players are about to spend 90 plus minutes in very close proximity, analysis by the Premier League of 288 games so far this season has revealed that on average 98 per cent of players experience less than 5 minutes of close contact in every game.
It will not just be viewers at home watching a game played out in an empty stadium who are going to have to get used to a strange new matchday experience, players and staff also need to adapt.