Hawkeye Sidekick

Opinion: Project Restart facing a bumpy road to league resumption

EPL contrasting viewpoints to be seen this week

With the German Bundesliga back underway over this past weekend, attention now turns to the EPL and how they look to resume their league. The threat of a spike in pandemic cases never far away. Hawkeye Sidekick reviews where we are and how this week will define where Project Restart goes from here.

The EPL clubs are scheduled to meet on Monday, May 18th to discuss their next moves with Project Restart. The main agenda is when their squads can resume group training. Once determined, they may look to confirm a league resumption date.

The aim right now is for the EPL to resume fixtures on June 19th. An ambitious date given that league squads have not integrated back into training together. There has been a distinct lack of clarity to the club managers, backroom staff and squad players and frustration is starting to grow with each passing day. Their press comments are starting to echo frustration and disillusionment.

Steve Bruce’s comments today to the mass media is the start of the salvo from the personnel who will be impacted the most by this league resumption. Given the hectic scheduling once the league resumes, player fitness and conditioning is going to be paramount and the fact that the powers that be want to kick on with the June 19th fixture means that both parties are now in a collision course.

The players have kept themselves ticking over in recent months but there is that match day fitness which you cannot replicate on a Zoom call with a sports conditioning coach. The rigors of the sport necessitate group training sessions and even some preseason friendly games to get back up to speed. This has not being discussed by the EPL and club owners. June 19th looks like a protocol red tape disaster and the preseason games would be a way of testing and refining the new protocols ahead of time.

The club medics this week will need to be speak up on the medical welfare of the players. Ultimately, they are going to be first line of medical assistance for the squads when this league campaign resumes. The pandemic concerns are obvious but they also need to provide context on potential issues with insufficient recovery time and additional risk of serious player injury. Squads could be depleted at a rate of knots.

Whereas the German Bundesliga were on point with their communication and identifying the steps for league resumption, the same cannot be said for the EPL. The teleconference calls and various inaccurate accounts of club’s feedback has being massively inconsistent and disappointing. The lack of decisive leadership from the EPL has been striking so far and the fact that they have not asked managers, players reps and medical parties to discuss the scheduling date is causing massive trust issues.

Project Restart is going to encounter a number of critics this week. The neutral venue proposal needs to be scrapped; retain home vs. away format, otherwise the league integrity is under the microscope. How will the games be played? The physical contact in the game will need to be fully clarified and the EPL need to establish feedback from the German Bundesliga to refine and enhance EPL protocols where required.

It is all going to be about decisive leadership and communication from the EPL this week. The past weeks have not seen this but there is still time to turn this proposal around so that all parties can row in behind it despite some misgivings on pandemic concerns.

Otherwise, any idea of EPL resumption could be derailed before it starts and then you have the EFL Championship and League One scenarios. What about the disaster that has being VAR? Headache central for the powers that be in the EPL. I do not envy their position as this could turn pretty explosive quickly if not managed correctly.