Crystal Palace began small group training earlier this week as the first major step towards a return to competitive sports.
The football team returned to small group training on May 15, 2020 after two weeks of individual training at their training centre. This follows an announcement from Premier League confirming that training may restart under strict protocols which will be monitored by the league.
In the statement, Premier League said: “Step one of the ‘return to training’ protocol enables squads to train while maintaining social distancing. Contact training is not yet permitted. This first stage has been agreed in consultation with players, managers, Premier League club doctors, independent experts, and the Government.”
Many Premier League players have voiced their concerns about going back to training but Andros Townsend, Crystal Palace winger, told talkSPORT radio that he was glad to be returning. He said: “I have no doubt that if I am returning tomorrow morning, I am probably returning to the safest workplace in the country at the minute.
“We’ve been quite lucky at Crystal Palace, the doctor, the manager and chairman have all been transparent, we’ve had regular Zoom conference calls and laid everything on the table.”
Townsend said that he would understand and support any of his teammates who did not want to train yet. He acknowledged there was an element of risk to everything people did during this pandemic. He added: “I think at the moment with the world we live in, I am worried every time I step outside my front door. I am worried about walking past someone and picking up something and bringing it back to my kids. That is the world we live in.”
Crystal Palace also provided further detail on how the new measures would be implemented.
- Staggered training sessions and limited contact time.
The first team of 25 players will be split into three separate afternoon sessions. They will arrive in full training kit with players working in groups of four plus a goalkeeper. Players will do a mixture of gym work and outfield fitness maintaining social distancing throughout. After sessions players will return home to eat and shower.
- Limited medical treatment and sanitation.
Only essential medical treatment will be given to players after the training sessions with no massages or soft tissue treatment. All equipment used will be thoroughly cleaned after each session in preparation for the next group of players.
- Additional facilities and testing.
The club confirmed they have secured the use of Kent Cricket’s Beckenham site which is adjacent to Crystal Palace’s training ground. This will allow the team to make use of their larger car park with easy access directly to the training pitches.
Players will have bi-weekly Covid-19 tests which will be managed by the Premier League and conducted by external testers. Players underwent the first round of tests last week in preparation for their return.
Phase two of ‘project restart’ would allow players to begin contact training in larger groups. Premier League confirmed that they are continuing their consultation with teams and both the managers’ and players’ union as they develop safety protocols for contact training.