Premier League clubs ‘fear rivals may lie’ over coronavirus testing

Manchester City ace Raheem Sterling casts further doubt over Project Restart with training concerns

Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling on the pitch pre-lockdown
(Image credit: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Premier League clubs are being warned they may face heavy sanctions if found to have breached new Covid-19 rules aimed at restarting Britain’s football season.

The league’s 20 clubs are today expected to agree to the first of a three-stage process for getting the top flight back in action, “even if opinions differ sharply about the length of the road ahead”, says The Guardian.

In the first stage of the plan, players will be allowed to work in small groups at training grounds while maintaining social distancing, with all club staff to be tested twice a week for the new coronavirus by Hong Kong-based biotechnology firm Prenetics.

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However, The Times’ chief sports correspondent Matt Lawton reports that while the names of players who test positive will be sent to their clubs, “the Premier League will be told only the number of positive tests, not their identities”.

“That has led officials at some clubs to fear the system... could be abused by a club if a key player tests positive ahead of a big game but does not have symptoms,” he writes.

“Given the value of Premier League survival is about £200m, the fear is that a manager would be tempted to pick that key player regardless of the test result.”

An unnamed Premier League executive told Lawton that some players have been asymptomatic despite testing positive, creating concerns about “how a club might respond to that situation if the stakes are particularly high”.

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If found to have breached the new protocols, clubs could face sanctions including possible points deductions.

Today’s vote on the first phase of protocols comes as Manchester City and England winger Raheem Sterling warns that players will “need a full four to five weeks” of training to regain fitness after being sidelined since early March.

The Daily Mail says Sterling’s comments “cast further doubt over Project Restart”, amid concerns that “‘high risk’ players will pick up injuries if they are rushed back”.

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