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Project Restart – Players Safety Concerns

Ever since the lockdown began, the FA & the Premier League have sought to put together “Project Restart” notably with no reference nor involvement of safety officers nor the FSOA.

For our part, and in anticipation of this, John Newsham designed a template to assist safety officers in creating their post-coronavirus risk assessment and advised the competition providers and NGBs that this was available. The National League and the EFL liked the document and have helped promote its use, but the PL has simply said nothing, instead, they are paddling their canoe through a minefield of treacle to the extent that at a meeting yesterday, players representatives are still expressing concerns over “safety”.

Well, who’s domain is that?

As the FSOA has consistently said, there is no “quick fix” to this pandemic. Governments around the world have had to live with it while many people all around them have fallen ill and in some cases passed away, with the wold’s most powerful people powerless to do anything about it.

For the football industry, this is about balancing risks and mitigating them. So quite what makes this industry believe it can solve a problem that the world cannot is a mystery to the FSOA, as John Newsham pointed out in his conversation with David Conn of the Guardian on Sunday.

Because of the fears expressed, and many newspapers appear to revile the thoughts and feelings of Sergio Aguero, Tyrone Mings, Danny Rose et al, the proposed restart date of 12 June is starting to look at best optimistic. Thoughts are now moving ahead a week and in some instances to July, which with 9 PL matches to go and possibly more in the EFL matches, we start to hit the buffers in terms of valid safety certificates, which generally expire on 31 July annually before being replaced for the following season.

According to this morning’s Times, the players have the following concerns:

  • Players believe they need at least four weeks of full-contact training, but as yet have only been presented with non-contact protocols;
  • Players don’t want to sign forms declaring they are happy with the protocols until they have seen the second protocols that involve returning to full-contact training;
  • Clubs have been told their testing pools must be limited to 40 people because of a limited number of tests, forcing managers to limit their backroom teams; and
  • Players felt many questions are still unanswered, not least around safety

The magic word among this is the last one. Getting players to sign themselves off as happy with protocols? Where might that leave a club if a player dies, in terms of insurance?

And that is also at the back of Managers’ minds because in the same article there were the following concerns:

  • Managers feel government pressure is forcing them to return to competitive action with insufficient time to properly prepare their players;
  • Managers raised the question about liability should anyone become seriously ill with coronavirus, with clubs unsure whether they will receive legal clearance to sign up to the protocols by Monday;

One wonders what legal advice has been sought out in this respect and as we have said consistently – who’s door do problems like this, anticipated by the FSOA and no doubt our colleagues alike, finally, land at? “Well, Mr Safety Officer, you signed your stadium off as safe, and the players signed their disclaimers”. You don’t need to be Judge Rinder, do you?

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