Government “opening door” to a return to action next month


Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden says plans to resume football progressed after a meeting on Thursday.

Plans to resume football progressed on Thursday, according to Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden.

Dowden chaired a meeting with chief executives from the Premier League, EFL and Football Association to discuss plans to restart the season next month.

And he said: “Today’s positive meeting I hosted with the football authorities progressed plans for the resumption of the professional game in England.

“We all agreed that we will only go ahead if it is safe to do so and the health and welfare of players, coaches and staff comes first.”

The minister added that it is now over to the respective governing bodies on how best to deliver a restart.

“The government is opening the door for competitive football to return safely in June,” Dowden added.

“This should include widening access for fans to view live coverage and ensure finances from the game’s resumption supports the wider football family.

Cabinet meeting
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden said talks progressed on Thursday (PA)

“It is now up to the football authorities to agree and finalise the detail of their plans, and there is combined goodwill to achieve this for their fans, the football community and the nation as a whole.

“The Government and our medical experts will continue to offer guidance and support to the game ahead of any final decision which would put these plans into action.”

Meanwhile, Brighton chief executive Graham Potter has some reservations about a possible return to training next week.

If all goes well then Potter and chief executive Paul Barber revealed some players could return for the first phase of training the following day, which would see players tested before working out individually or in small groups as part of Government guidelines.

Brighton's players could be back in training next Tuesday (John Walton/PA)
Brighton’s players could be back in training next Tuesday (John Walton/PA)

But Potter said: “There are concerns, of course, because we’ve come out of lockdown, the situation isn’t totally resolved.

“I’ve got a young family, my wife’s family have health issues so there are concerns there but there are concerns all over the country as well at the moment, which I recognise.

“But we’re human beings like everybody else, we need that clarity if we can.”

Thursday’s announcement paves the way for the league to resume by the middle of next month but Potter hopes for more guidance.

Speaking via Zoom conference call, he added: “It’s nice to have a plan because you can work towards something and you can prepare and you can do your job as best you can.

Glenn Murray has been one of several vocal Brighton figures during the lockdown (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Glenn Murray has been one of several vocal Brighton figures during the lockdown (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“At the same time we know that we’re in a public health crisis and it’s a new situation for everybody so there’s no road map we can follow. From a players and coaches perspective it would be nice to see a pathway going forward.

“We haven’t played for three months. Then also the what if scenarios: What if players get positive results for the virus, what happens there, how does that affect the competition? There’s lots of little bits of detail.

“We want to try to get back playing, the general consensus in our group is we want to play football, finish the season but just to get that detail would be nice.”

Brighton striker Glenn Murray believes the timescale being discussed about a return to action is too soon given the current predicament facing the country.

He told Sky Sports on Thursday morning: “I just can’t understand after just sort of loosening the lockdown why we’re in such a rush to get it back. Why can’t we just wait sort of a month or so to see if things go to plan?”

Barber praised the veteran forward for speaking his mind before admitting the buck stops with the club hierarchy, which has been asked by the league to vote on a medical protocol next Monday.

Barber said: “We want our players to be open with us and open with everyone in terms of their own feelings because I think it is very, very important that players are recognised here as human beings that have their own views on the crisis that we’ve been through.

“Glenn is very much entitled and encouraged to speak his mind on these things.

“What we now need to do is take a little bit of time to reflect on what was said in the meetings and to hear back from the Premier League with some of the questions we’ve raised as a club that we needed clarification on.

“Once we’ve got all of that information in one place then we can discuss that with Graham and his staff and we can very importantly discuss it with our directors because it’s important that the board of directors sign off on that protocol because ultimately the liability sits with us.”