EFL’s safety-first approach behind the delay to Preston North End’s return to training

The delay in Preston North End and fellow EFL clubs returning to training is so that testing procedures have time to be put in place.

By Dave Seddon
Friday, 15th May 2020, 8:00 am

PNE had intended starting training on Saturday but that has now been put off until Monday, May 25.

That followed guidance which the EFL released on Wednesday evening following a meeting of their board.

It means the proposed date for starting Championship games being moved further into June, but the aim remains to finish the season by July 31.

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PNE players in pre-season training at Springfields last summer

The EFL wants all players to be tested for Covid-19 before training resumes.

That testing will continue on a regular basis during the build-up to the restart and once the season gets going.

Peter Ridsdale, advisor to PNE owner Trevor Hemmings, told the Lancashire Post: “The delay was to properly get in place the testing. The plan is to test all players 48 hours before they come back to training.

“Then players will be tested twice a week.

“This will be at all clubs and the EFL are setting up the testing at training grounds.

“The delay is nothing to do with any unwillingness to get back playing, it’s driven by the medical side of things which is very important.”

Initially, the EFL were looking at trying to resume the season on June 6.

That does not look possible now with clubs being advised to not start training before May 25.

The following weekend is more likely but that would mean playing the season to a finish in 49 days in order to conclude by July 31.

When plans were first put in place to restart, the league talked about 56 days being needed.

The July 31 cut-off was highlighted by EFL chairman Rick Parry as being vital due to contracts. A number of players at EFL clubs are out of contract on June 30 but do get a month’s severance pay if released without the offer of a new deal.

So those players could still make themselves available to play until the end of July.

Said Ridsdale: “I believe the plan is still to finish by July 31.

“The fixture list could look a lot different to normal with games spread over every day of the week.

“That would allow games to be broadcast at different times on different days.

“You might not play the traditional Saturday-Tuesday schedule, it could be Monday and a Friday for example.

“Broadcasting the games so that fans can watch them is a big thing because they will be played behind closed doors.

“We’ve got to accept that the end of this season is going to be a lot different but it is important we play to a finish.”

In the Championship there are nine rounds of games left, plus the play-offs.