Early resumption of Premier League not safe for players: Neville

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Rushing to resume the 2019-20 Premier League season stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic could jeopardise the lives of players and staff, former Manchester United defender Gary Neville said.

English soccer has been suspended since March 13 due to the novel coronavirus, which has led to the deaths of more than 26,000 people in Britain.

Still, the minister responsible for sport has held talks with the league on competition returning as soon as possible.

“If people are really serious about putting health first we would not be discussing football returning at this moment,” eight-times Premier League winner Neville told Sky Sports.

“The minute one member of staff or player goes into intensive care, what are they going to do? That’s the bit on one shoulder telling them: ‘It’s a risk.’ They really aren’t sure at this time how to deal with it.”

Premier League clubs will meet on Friday to discuss ways to finish the season and Neville said the prospect of losing money from broadcasters if the campaign is cancelled had clouded the judgement of those pushing for quick restart.

“If this was a non-economic decision, there would be no football for months,” Neville added.

“There are big prizes up for grabs and huge economic loss that’s going to be incurred and it does cloud minds, in terms of the level of risk people are willing to place on lives.”

UK government wants Premier League back “as soon as possible”

The UK government’s cabinet minister responsible for sport said he has been in talks with the Premier League with the aim of getting football back on the field as quickly as possible.

Speaking at a parliamentary questions session, Oliver Dowden, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said: “I personally have been in talks with the Premier League with a view to getting football up and running as soon as possible in order to support the whole football community.

“But of course, any such moves would have to be consistent with public health guidance,” he said.

The Premier League, which has been on hold since March 13, remains suspended until at least April 30 while lockdown measures are in place in the United Kingdom until May 7, when the government is set to review the current restrictions in place.

But three London clubs, Arsenal, West Hamand Tottenham Hotspur, along with Brighton, have already re-opened their training grounds, allowing limited return to training while observing social distancing protocols.

Those clubs say that players will only be using outdoor field facilities for individual work and will not take part in team activities.

Premier League clubs will hold their latest conference call on Friday as they continue to evaluate various options for finishing the season but a re-start of matches is not expected until June at the earliest.

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