La Liga aims to restart in June; will begin testing players

Sports

Constuction workers stand by Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, April 16, 2020. The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has affected more than games and player salaries for Real Madrid and Barcelona. It has also taken a toll on their stadium renovation plans. Both Spanish soccer clubs are working on hefty renovation projects for their famed venues.(AP Photo/Paul White)

MADRID (AP) — The Spanish league said Monday it is confident it can restart in June and finish its season by the end of the European summer, with players beginning to be tested this week so they can return to training for the first time in nearly two months.

Basic training was allowed to resume in Spain on Monday after the government eased some of the lockdown measures that had been in place since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Spanish league players are expected to get back on the field later in the week after they are tested for COVID-19 and after the clubs’ training facilities are properly prepared and disinfected.

“The return of football is a sign that society is progressing towards the new normal. It will also bring back an element of life that people in Spain and around the world know and love,” Spanish league president Javier Tebas said in a statement.

“People’s health is paramount, so we have a comprehensive protocol to safeguard the health of everyone involved as we work to restart LaLiga. Circumstances are unprecedented, but we hope to start playing again in June and finish our 19-20 season this summer.”

All players, coaches and club employees who are going to be involved in the initial training phase will have to be tested two days before the individual practices can begin.

The tests will reportedly begin as early as Tuesday, and the league wants them to be conducted daily after the individual training sessions begin.

The league wants a period of training of about a month before it can resume with matches in empty stadiums. There is no set date yet for the league’s resumption.

The league recently sent clubs a protocol with safety guidelines on how to return to practice. The protocol, which was obtained by The Associated Press, has a four-stage plan that details the current preparation phase, an individual training stage, a phase with smaller group sessions and finally one with full squad sessions.

The league said the timetable will always depend on the de-escalation process established by the Spanish government.

The clubs’ facilities will have to be inspected to make sure they comply to the cleaning protocols established by local authorities.

Players will be allowed to use the facilities but won’t be allowed to interact with teammates in the initial phase. They will travel individually to the facilities and must arrive already wearing their training uniforms.

No more than six players will be allowed on the field at the same time, and they must stay “the greatest distance possible” from each other. The use of equipment should be limited and coaches must supervise players from a distance.

Players must wear gloves and masks until going onto the pitch, and only one or two players can share the gym at a time. The league protocol, which was prepared by the medical staff of some first-division clubs, recommends that players — and those living with them — should not leave their homes other than to go to practice. It says each club must establish a food-delivery system for first-team players.

Spain was one of the hardest hit countries by the pandemic but it started loosening some of its restrictions on movement as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 started to go down in recent weeks. The country first went into a state of emergency on March 14.

Teams in Italy are also expected to resume training this week. Clubs in England and Germany have already reopened their training centers, while the French league was canceled last week.

The Spanish league estimated nearly 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in losses if the league couldn’t restart because of the pandemic.

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