The English Premier League (EPL) season restarted on Wednesday, 17 June after a three-month hiatus with new measures in place.
“Strict protocols have been put in place to ensure that stadiums are as safe as possible for everybody present.” This was the statement issued by the league ahead of the kick-off that stipulates guidelines to follow due to the global COVID-19 crisis.
AFP Sport checks the formulated protocols:
Stadium grounds are divided into three zones, namely, red, amber and green, with different sets of protocols assigned to each zone. Red zones of any stadium includes the pitch, technical area, tunnel, and dressing rooms – those who have undergone tests prior to the five days are allowed to enter the red zones. To grant access, they must flash a bar code called a “clinical passport” showing their negative test results before being allowed entry.
For the remaining 92 matches of the season, around 300 people are allowed into the stadiums.
Before reaching the stadium, there are COVID-19 screenings for players and staff. Traveling on the road or on flights are permissible as long as the environment is sterile and social distancing norms are implemented as a top priority.
For Sheffield United’s first match since the relaunch, their visit to Aston Villa on Wednesday saw some changes. Manager Chris Wilder shares, “We are going on three buses. The main guys are on the first one, so you will see the team from who gets off first.”
Making their way to the dressing rooms, the away teams must be directed from their vehicles through a sterile route that provides sufficient space for social distancing. In the rooms, staggered use is preferred and teams can use the showers if safe distancing is maintained.
Instead of the usual dressing room in Villa Park, Sheffield United occupied the press room and players’ lounge instead to change. Wilder also added that the players have to stay two metres apart when there is a break in play.
Some stadiums have also allocated separate tunnels for players and match officials. For use of single tunnels to and from the pitch must be staggered.
With the exception of players and coaching staff on the bench, everyone at the stadium is instructed to wear face coverings.
Areas such as changing facilities, dugouts, matchballs, goalposts, corner flags and substitution boards are disinfected thoroughly before each match.
Handshakes between players and at the coin toss will not take place.
Players will stagger themselves as they stand for the league anthem at the start of each match. Meanwhile, the team benches will be expanded to allow for safe distancing.
Ban on Spitting
Even during goal celebrations, players have been instructed to keep the appropriate distance from other players. In addition, they must not spit or nose-clear or share water bottles.
During matches, players are also encouraged to avoid confronting opponents or officials in a group and minimise interaction with opponents after the match.
Dedryck Boyata of Hertha Berlin was seen to have violated the rules last month when he grabbed teammate’s Marko Grujic’s face during a match in the Bundesliga. He later apologised and said that players need to adjust to the new restrictions.