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Players union expresses concern as plan to restart football season is agreed

Luis Rubiales, Irene Lozano and Javier Tebas, following their meeting in Madrid on Saturday.
Luis Rubiales, Irene Lozano and Javier Tebas, following their meeting in Madrid on Saturday. / EFE
  • Clubs have been given a protocol to follow with a view to restarting league action on 29 May or 5 June - should the government give the plan the green light

This week is a crucial one for the return of professional football in Spain. LaLiga hopes that teams in the top two divisions in Spain can begin training next Monday so that the competitive action can resume on either Friday 29 May, or a week later on 5 June (also a Friday).

On Saturday, an agreement was reached in Madrid between the Consejo Superior de Deportes (CSD), the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and LaLiga following a meeting hosted by the Secretary of State for Sport, Irene Lozano, in which RFEF chief Luis Rubiales and LaLiga boss Javier Tebas, whose relationship has been strained, participated.

This eight-hour meeting (as reported by the CSD) served to lay the foundations for the return of professional football. It approved the protocol put forward by LaLiga that would see players prepare for the return to action, behind closed doors, without any risk to their health.

With a protocol already established, all that remains is for the central government - in this case, the Health authorities - to give the green light to the return of the players to the place chosen for training, the second of the four phases set.

A phased return

The protocol to get players ready for a restart to the season comprises four phases. The first, under way since the declaration of the state of alarm, is keeping players in isolation at their homes where they carry out individual training, supervised by the physical trainers; the second, consists of individual training but back at the usual place of work; the third sees training escalate to group sessions, with a limited number of players, (eight); and the last is the return to full group training.

Coronavirus testing will be carried out on all professionals and their family members, as well as periodical antibody testing.

In the second phase, hoped to start next Monday, players will arrive at their clubs' training complexes, 15 minutes apart. If the players use the same equipment, it will be disinfected.

Even in the final phase the strictest hygiene and disinfection measures will still be maintained. In the case of a positive result, the player will be immediately isolated, the whole group will be tested for coronavirus, the facilities will be disinfected and there will be daily medical controls.

This is all to get players ready for a potential return in as little as five weeks' time.

The union's doubts

Although there is an agreement between LaLiga and the Spanish Federation, the approval of the Spanish Footballers Association (AFE) is yet to arrive.

The players' union has this week expressed its concern about the phase to follow, when matches resume. It has not yet been ruled out that even from this third stage until the conclusion of the season that players could be made to live under the same roof in a World Cup-style camp to avoid possible infection and delaying the season even further.

However, this would imply players being separated from their families for at least a month and a half which could have implications for their mental health, given it would be an extension of the already six weeks of confinement.

In order to try to find consensus, LaLiga has already set up meetings with the coaches of the First and Second Division teams, as well as with the captains of the squads.