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Alexis Sanchez: Inter Milan want Manchester United winger to extend loan – Sky Sports

Sanchez’s current deal set to expire on June 30; Inter currently have no option to buy

By Liam Grace

Last Updated: 31/05/20 9:10pm

Alexis Sanchez is set to return to Manchester United on June 30

Alexis Sanchez is set to return to Manchester United on June 30

Alexis Sanchez is set to return to Manchester United on June 30

Inter Milan want Alexis Sanchez from Manchester United on a longer loan deal, following the extension of the 2020/21 season in Italy and England.

Inter are believed to be paying just a quarter of Sanchez’s £450,000 wages with the current 10-month deal, which is set to end on June 30, expected to cost United around £6m, while Inter have no option to buy.

However, sporting director Piero Ausilio has told Sky in Italy that the Italian club are now looking to extend Sanchez’s stay until the end of the Serie A campaign – which will be completed through the summer due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – much like the Premier League in England.

Sanchez has failed to impress at United since arriving from Arsenal

Sanchez has failed to impress at United since arriving from Arsenal

Sanchez has failed to impress at United since arriving from Arsenal

Sanchez, 31, who has scored five goals in 45 matches for United, picked up an ankle injury in October while on international duty with Chile, just a few months into his loan at the San Siro.

The former Arsenal and Barcelona forward has subsequently failed to score in 11 appearances for Inter since returning to action in January, but Ausilio feels Sanchez could be an important cog for the remainder of the season.

1:57

Sky Sports News’ James Cooper explains the complexities of United’s bid to extend Odion Ighalo’s loan deal at Old Trafford
Sky Sports News’ James Cooper explains the complexities of United’s bid to extend Odion Ighalo’s loan deal at Old Trafford

“First of all, let’s start from the premise that with all the players our desire is to continue until the end of the Serie A and Europa League season,” Ausilio said.

“Our will is to end the season with all these players. If their contracts are ending, we are going to deal with the situation. The only thing that I can announce because it is official is that we practiced our option for [Ashley] Young.

“[But] We rely on Sanchez in these [next few] months, above all to be able to give a definitive evaluation of this player, who was injured and couldn’t play for a long time.

“Before this injury he was doing very well. I remember the matches against Barcelona and Sampdoria. That was the Sanchez of his best seasons, both with Udinese and with Arsenal.

“After the injury, he had just little time and then came into this very unlucky period [the coronavirus crisis]. But now since Serie A is resuming he will have the chance to prove his worth and then together we will take a decision.

“But honestly we both have the interest in ending the season in the best way and find an agreement, then evaluate his future.”

Inter, who are third in Serie A with 13 games remaining, are currently nine points behind leaders Juventus but have a game in hand over the table-toppers, while Lazio sit between them in second.

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Saul Niguez: Atletico Madrid midfielder has fans guessing about his future after cryptic post – Sky Sports

Last Updated: 31/05/20 5:13pm

Saul Ninguez reportedly has a £135m buyout clause

Saul Ninguez reportedly has a £135m buyout clause

Saul Ninguez reportedly has a £135m buyout clause

Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez has told fans to await an announcement about his “new club” in three days.

The Spain international has long been linked with a move to Manchester United.

But in a cryptic Twitter post, the 25-year-old – who has played 37 games for Atletico this season, scoring four goals – has said to his followers that he will not reveal any details for 72 hours.

He wrote: “New club. I’ll announce it in three days…”

If the news is transfer related, it would not be the first time Atletico fans have had to deal with players creating a spectacle around their departure from the club.

Two years ago, Antoine Griezmann released a half-hour long documentary, aired on Spanish TV, in which he deliberated whether he should stay at the club or leave.

Two different endings to the documentary, which showcased the France international deliberating at his French mansion with family, were recorded – one saying he would stay, the other that he would go.

He opted to remain, only to leave for Barcelona a year later.

Saul: Where does he excel?

Manchester United continue to be linked with a move for Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez – but in which areas does he excel?

Latest reports in the British media claim United will attempt the lure a player with a £135m buyout clause by offering him a wage increase to £200,000 a week.

Paul Pogba’s future remains uncertain and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s scouts have reportedly been tracking the Spain international as a potential replacement this summer.

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Odion Ighalo: Manchester United close to agreeing loan extension for striker – Sky Sports

Proposed loan extension will run until end of January, when Ighalo will return to Shanghai Shenhua

Last Updated: 31/05/20 5:16pm

Odion Ighalo has scored four goals in eight games for Manchester United since joining on loan in January

Odion Ighalo has scored four goals in eight games for Manchester United since joining on loan in January

Odion Ighalo has scored four goals in eight games for Manchester United since joining on loan in January

Manchester United are close to agreeing a loan extension for striker Odion Ighalo.

United remain in talks with Ighalo’s parent club Shanghai Shenhua, and it is hoped a deal can be agreed before the striker’s current loan deal expires at midnight on Sunday.

The proposed loan extension will run until the end of January, when Ighalo will return to Shanghai.

If agreed, Ighalo will miss the majority of the 2020 Chinese Super League season, which is scheduled to begin in June.

Shanghai’s original stance was that they would only agree to extend his loan if an obligation to buy was incorporated into the deal, with Ighalo likely to cost upwards of £20m.

Ighalo has impressed on loan for United, scoring a goal every 80 minutes

Ighalo has impressed on loan for United, scoring a goal every 80 minutes

Ighalo has impressed on loan for United, scoring a goal every 80 minutes

However, with border restrictions potentially preventing Ighalo from returning to China in time for the new season, Shenhua have softened their stance and will now allow him to extend his stay at Old Trafford on the condition he signs a new contract.

Sky Sports News revealed in March that Ighalo had been offered a two-year contract extension with Shanghai worth £400,000 a week.

His current contract expires in December 2022, but Shanghai want to keep him until at least December 2024.

Ighalo initially joined United in a Deadline Day move in January, and scored four times in eight appearances prior to the suspension of the Premier League.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hopeful a deal can be agreed for the Nigerian

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hopeful a deal can be agreed for the Nigerian

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hopeful a deal can be agreed for the Nigerian

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hopeful the club can extend Ighalo’s loan spell so he can “finish off what he started”.

“The loan deal went until the end of May now, so obviously he’s supposed to be going back,” Solskjaer told MUTV earlier this week.

“We’re in dialogue. They’ve been great towards us, his club, and allowed him to play for his dream club.

“It’s been a dream for him and hopefully he can finish off what he started, hopefully with a trophy for us. At the moment, nothing has been agreed. Their league is going to get started soon so we’re just waiting to see.”

‘Negotiations aren’t easy at all’

1:57

Sky Sports reporter James Cooper explains the complexities of Manchester United’s bid to extend Ighalo’s stay
Sky Sports reporter James Cooper explains the complexities of Manchester United’s bid to extend Ighalo’s stay

Analysis from Sky Sports’ James Cooper…

“The talks are going on and they are at an advanced stage between Manchester United and Shanghai Shenhua in a bid to get Odion Ighalo’s loan extended, perhaps ideally until January.

“That’s what they are looking at, but these negotiations aren’t easy at all – we’re talking about a government-owed and government-run franchise. We found in January, although the loan deal did get over the line, that wasn’t an easy negotiation to do.

“You can understand why Manchester United would like to do it and there’s a will on the player’s side to stay here in Manchester. United are fairly relaxed about the situation.

Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford have benefited from Ighalo's experience

Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford have benefited from Ighalo's experience

Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford have benefited from Ighalo’s experience

‘Ideally, they’d like the player, he’s scored four goals in eight appearances. He does things that maybe players already on the books at the club don’t have the instincts to do quite so well.

“Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood are all learning their trade, in contrast to Ighalo where you look at his goals so far – especially against Derby in the FA Cup – and they’re all about instinct and determination.

“Speaking to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he’s hoping Ighalo remains in Manchester to get those instincts into the minds and playbooks of those three. What United don’t want to do is be in a situation where they’re left with a permanent deal for a player they don’t want to spend the type of money on.

“We don’t yet know when the Chinese Super League will start, which leaves a bit of wriggle room for when this deal has to get done.”

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How could fans return to football stadiums? The Sunday Supplement panel discuss – Sky Sports

Supplement panel also argue fans should be trusted not to gather outside stadiums

Last Updated: 31/05/20 6:10pm

How long before football fans are allowed into stadiums again?

How long before football fans are allowed into stadiums again?

How long before football fans are allowed into stadiums again?

Football authorities are right to be looking at ways of returning fans to stadiums, say the Sunday Supplement panel, following reports 20,000 supporters could attend the FA Cup final.

Download the Sunday Supplement podcast on: Spotify | Apple | Castbox | Spreaker

In the revised football calendar, the showpiece final is now due to be held at Wembley on August 1 and a report in the Mirror on Sunday says 10,000 fans from each club could be present.

Elsewhere, there have also been reports leagues in Italy and Spain could restart in front of socially distanced supporters, with stadiums around 20 per cent full.

“It feels hopeful and we could all do with a bit of that at the moment. And it makes some sense, if spacing can be done,” said Matt Dickinson, the chief sports writer of The Times.

“Obviously it throws up all sorts of other issues about public transport, people getting into the stadium… There’s an awful lot of practicalities to be resolved. But as has been reported this morning, they’re exploring it in other countries and it makes sense to explore it.

“I’m sure there are logistical challenges to overcome but if the fans can be got there safely, can be spread out through a stadium, then why shouldn’t we be looking at it. Because step by step, we’re trying to get back to as normal as we can. And to me, football will not be back properly until I can go with my kids and sit in the stand and watch it.

“We’ll take whatever we can before then – but that is when football will be back.”

Bundesliga missing atmosphere

Melissa Reddy, the senior football correspondent at The Independent, said while the Bundesliga’s return in Germany has been a success on the pitch, the absence of supporters has detracted from the spectacle – and there is also a financial incentive for fans to return.

“Initially, with the Bundesliga being the template, you felt like something was missing,” she said. “Obviously the game remains the game, so the technical aspects you still enjoy. But there is a sense of it not being whole without the atmosphere, without the fans there to enjoy it.

“I think the other important element of getting fans back gradually is not just the feeling around the game but it will be important financially for the clubs to get some match day income back because, as we all know, the financial implications of COVID-19, has been unprecedented for clubs.”

The Bundesliga has been played in front of empty stands

The Bundesliga has been played in front of empty stands

The Bundesliga has been played in front of empty stands

But who would make the cut to attend supporters if only a limited number of seats were available? That will be one of the many issues to be debated, said Jeremy Cross, the chief sports writer at the Daily Star.

“Richard Masters [the Premier League chief executive] spoke last week about being hopeful for next season that supporters would stand a realistic chance of attending games again but he said it would be on a phased basis and he didn’t really expand on that,” said Cross.

“I suppose you could argue season ticket holders would be the priority. Would they then go on age? We just don’t know. There are so many uncertainties but when we get to that point when clubs can consider a certain percentage of fans coming back it will no doubt be a massive debate.”

Trust fans not to gather outside grounds

5:29

The Sunday Supplement panel say the Premier League should trust football fans to not congregate outside stadiums, and believe matches should be played at home grounds rather than neutral venues
The Sunday Supplement panel say the Premier League should trust football fans to not congregate outside stadiums, and believe matches should be played at home grounds rather than neutral venues

The Premier League will return initially without fans. However, there are discussions around some games – including fixtures where Liverpool could clinch the title – being played at neutral venues, with concerns about fans gathering outside home grounds for big fixtures.

Cross says that approach would be disrespectful to football supporters.

“I think it’s quite disrespectful to presume that fans can’t be trusted not to gather outside of grounds,” he said.

“We’ve seen footage over the weekend of beaches being packed, beauty spots getting jammed with people, and nothing seems to be done about that. We haven’t even got to the point of games resuming yet, and football supporters are not to be trusted.

I think it’s quite disrespectful to presume that fans can’t be trusted not to gather outside of grounds.

Jeremy Cross, Daily Star

“I know Liverpool feel aggrieved about this as they feel their supporters are being singled out for special attention, and obviously part of that is because they’re about to win the title, but I understand why they feel they are being highlighted as the problem club here.

“You’ve got to remember that Liverpool aren’t just supported by fans in Liverpool. They have a supporters’ club in Brighton, they have fans all over the country. Wherever they play, there’s going to be this threat.”

Dickinson feels the best way to deal with the issue would be to allow the clubs to communicate with their supporters.

“I think this is the thorniest issue, and I can completely see why Liverpool as a club and as a fan base are perturbed by the idea that they should be singled out,” he said.

“They are unique circumstances with Liverpool winning the title after this long wait – it’s something that in normal circumstances would trigger a celebration among hundreds of thousands of people. The whole city would be brought to a standstill for a week.

“There’s a latent desire to celebrate, which is totally understandable. I do worry about it – I’ve spoken to some people who feel the best way is for fans to be policed through their own clubs.

“Jurgen Klopp is one of the best communicators in football and he is certainly the best communicator to Liverpool fans about what should be expected from them.

“If you take the games away from Liverpool itself, you’re already creating a bit of tension around it. It’s probably best to try to keep the games at Anfield, and for the club to communicate as best they can, through Jurgen Klopp and the players over what’s safe and what’s expected.

“I do think it’s very contentious to take those games away from Anfield, and I think it may end up creating more problems than it solves. I understand why the debate is on the table, but I don’t think taking the games to Wembley is some sort of panacea.”

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Austria gives go-ahead to crowd-free F1 races – The Indian Express

By: Reuters | Zurich | Published: May 31, 2020 9:32:54 am

Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Formula One, F1, sports news, Indian Express

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton at Austrian Grand Prix (Source: AP File)

Formula One can start its season in Austria with two races behind closed doors on July 5 and 12, the country’s health ministry said on Saturday.

The delayed championship, which was due to get going in Australia in March, has had to cancel or postpone a string of races — including the Monaco highlight — due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Austrian grand prix circuit, the scenic Red Bull Ring owned by the energy drink brand, is near the village of Spielberg about 200 km (124 miles) southwest of the capital Vienna.

Formula One is expected to publish a revamped calendar early next week with a race in neighbouring Hungary, also without spectators, following on from Austria.

Two races will then follow at Silverstone in Britain, with Hockenheim in Germany an alternative if quarantine conditions are an obstacle, with further rounds in Spain, Belgium and Italy.

The sport has said it hopes to do between 15-18 races, a reduction from the originally scheduled record 22, ending the season in Abu Dhabi in December after visiting Asia and the Americas.

Austria is among countries moving ahead with easing restrictions as new coronavirus infections wane.

Formula One’s 10 teams will be limited to a maximum 80 people each at the races when the delayed season gets going in July, the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) had said on Thursday.

The numbers are likely still to exceed 1,000 with support series and marshals, medical staff and others also to be factored in.

The Austrian event organisers presented a comprehensive, professional security concept to prevent infections, the country’s health ministry said on its website.

“The concept calls for strict hygienic measures as well as regular tests and health checks for the teams and their employees,” Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said.

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English sport returns behind closed doors after government go-ahead – The Guardian

“The British sporting recovery has begun,” declared the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, as he announced that professional sport in England can resume from Monday, paving the way for the first domestic live action in almost three months.

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press briefing, Dowden said the government had settled on a set of strict conditions that must be followed for sports to be allowed to return behind closed doors. The rules form stage three of the process of bringing sport back from the coronavirus lockdown. Stage two, which allowed for close-contact training for elite athletes, was published last Monday.

“The wait is over. Live British sport will shortly be back on in safe and carefully controlled environments,” he said. “This guidance provides the safe framework for sports to resume competitions.

“It is now up to individual sports to confirm they can meet these protocols and decide when it’s right for them to restart. This is a significant moment for British sport. By working with clinicians every step of the way, we are creating the safest possible environments for everyone involved.”

That means the Premier League can go ahead with its planned restart on 17 June – “I can now make it official: football is coming back,” said Dowden.

There was further encouragement for the Premier League with the news that from 1,130 Covid-19 tests conducted on players and staff on Thursday and Friday, none had returned a positive. However, the EFL followed up with results of its own, reporting 10 positive tests from eight clubs in the Championship and seven positives from three clubs in League Two. There is no programme of testing for League One at present.

A packed schedule of horse racing begins at Newcastle on Monday and builds quickly to Newmarket’s 2,000 Guineas classic on Saturday.

“It’s up to each individual sport to decide exactly when to resume competition; they know their sports best,” Dowden continued. “But football, tennis, horse racing, Formula One, cricket, golf, rugby, snooker and others are set to return to our screens shortly, with horse racing first out of the gate in the north-east next week.”

The guidelines, which he said had been developed at dozens of meetings with chief medical officers from a range of sporting bodies, require venues to put in place a screening process to detect coronavirus symptoms on entry, a one-way system for people and vehicles, minimal use of dressing rooms and for social distancing to be maintained where possible.

A third of the Premier League’s remaining 92 games will be broadcast free to air, which Dowden said followed his own intervention. “This is an open invitation for all fans to be part of this significant moment in our sporting history,” he said, adding that it would also encourage fans to stay at home to watch.

He included encouraging words for women’s sport, saying he would try to identify ways to recover the momentum lost along with some major events. “Visibility matters and our daughters deserve to see female athletes on the main stage.”

Richard Masters, chief executive of the Premier League, welcomed the news but described the 17 June restart as provisional. “There is still much work to be done to ensure the safety of everyone involved,” he said. “This includes consulting with our clubs, players and managers – along with all our other stakeholders – as the health and welfare of our participants and supporters is our priority.”

Dowden’s news does not apply to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland and there was a warning that Scottish football might struggle to meet the 1 August date set for its own return. Jason Leitch, the Scottish government’s national clinical director, said it depended on “a fair wind and the virus behaving itself, and of course the population behaving itself”.

Frankie Dettori was among the first to welcome the government’s announcement. “It’s fantastic news,” said the veteran jockey, who believes his sport is now well placed to hog the limelight for a short time. “We’ve got two weeks’ start on football, the whole country’s starved of sport and racing in this country is of the highest quality. People will be able to enjoy our sport on the box and I have no doubt we can put on a good show for everyone.”

Monday’s resumption of racing at Newcastle was so over-subscribed that 198 entrants had to be turned away. Dettori will make his own return to action at Kempton the next day but is already looking forward to Friday at Newmarket, when he will ride Stradivarius in the Coronation Cup, taking on last year’s Derby winner, Anthony Van Dyck. It is one of 21 races due to be screened by ITV next weekend.

“It’s like, wow,” said Dettori, relishing the imminence of such quality racing. “Great horses are ready to go. If everything goes smooth, we’ll be able to catch up on the Classics and by the end of July the programme of horse racing will be back to normal.”

The lobbying methods and public pronouncements of racing’s ruling body, the British Horseracing Authority, have been criticised, but Dettori was happy to give them credit. “We put a great proposal to the government. The BHA and the horsemen have worked tirelessly. We’re going to be taking precautions on top of precautions.

“I’ve been riding out with a mask on, to get used to it. I’ve been talking to my French colleagues, they told me it’s a little bit of a hindrance, it’s stopping your air-flow, but I’m getting my body used to it and I have no problem at all.”

Asked if the news was a relief, Dettori said: “I think more for my wife and kids, they’ll be happy to see the back of me, to be honest. We are arguing about stupid things at the moment, who did not empty the dishwasher, who took the last ice cream. I’m getting the sign that it’s about time for me to leave the house and go to work.”

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Neeraj Chopra recommended for Khel Ratna – The Indian Express

By: PTI | New Delhi | Published: May 30, 2020 11:52:40 pm

Chopra has already being conferred with the Arjuna Award in 2018. (File Photo/AFI)

Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra was on Saturday recommended for the coveted Khel Ratna Award by the committee constituted by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) for the third time in a row.

The 22-year-old Chopra is the only track and field athlete to be recommended by the AFI for the country’s highest sports award this year.

Chopra has already being conferred with the Arjuna Award in 2018 after winning a gold in the Gold Coast Commonwealth. In that year, he was also recommended for the Khel Ratna. He was again recommended for the Khel Ratna last year after winning gold in the 2018 Asian Games.

“Neeraj is the only athlete recommended by the awards committee for the Khel Ratna this year,” a source told PTI.

The Khel Ratna Award carries a medallion, a certificate and a cash prize of Rs 7.5 lakh.

Top sprinter Dutee Chand, who won a gold in the World University Games in 2019 and two silver medals in the 2018 Asian Games (one each in 100m and 200m), has already been recommended for the Arjuna Award by the Odisha government.

Chopra has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics with a throw of 87.86m in South Africa in January in his first competition after recovering from an elbow injury.

He missed the entire 2019 season due to the injury but breached the Olympic qualification mark of 85m.

In 2019, Neeraj had missed the IAAF World Championships, the Diamond League and the Asian Championships while recovering from the injury.

His last major international competition was the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games where he won gold with a national record of 88.06m. He had undergone a surgery in May 2019 to treat the injury.

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Premier League: No positive tests in fourth round of coronavirus testing – Sky Sports

1,130 players and club staff tested in fourth round of testing; fifth round of testing due to take place on Monday and Tuesday next week

Last Updated: 30/05/20 9:33pm

There have been no positive tests for coronavirus after the fourth round of Premier League testing.

The latest batch of tests, which were conducted on Thursday and Friday this week, are the first to take place since clubs unanimously agreed a return to contact training.

A total of 12 people tested positive from over 2,700 tests conducted in the first three rounds.

For the fourth round of testing, the number of tests available to each club increased from 50 to 60. 1,130 people were tested in total.

COVID-19 impact on football

March 5 – Pre-match handshakes banned in the Premier League.
March 11 – Man City vs Arsenal is first Premier League game suspended; Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid the last top level game played in England.
March 12 – Man Utd, Wolves play away Europa League ties behind closed doors, Rangers host Bayer Leverkusen in front of fans.
March 13 – Football suspended following an emergency meeting between PL, FA, EFL and WSL
April 15 – SPFL clubs approve plan to end the Scottish Championship, League One and league Two seasons.
May 15 – League Two clubs vote to end the season with immediate effect.
May 17 – Premier League players and staff tested for COVID-19.
May 18 – Scottish Premiership curtailed, with points per game determining league positions and Celtic named champions.
May 19 – Premier League clubs return to socially distanced group training.
May 25 – Women’s Super League cancelled, with title and relegation to be determined.
May 27 – Premier League clubs vote to resume contact training.

A Premier League statement read: “The Premier League can today confirm that on Thursday 28 May and Friday 29 May, 1130 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, zero have tested positive.

“The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public after each round of testing.”

The Premier League has set a provisional date of return for June 17, provided all safety tests are cleared, with Sky Sports showing 64 live games, including 25 which will be broadcast free to air.

In addition to the 39 matches scheduled to be broadcast on Sky before the coronavirus interruption, 25 more matches will be available on both Sky Sports Premier League and Sky’s free-to-air Pick channel.

In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports News on Friday, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said test results from the first three rounds had been “reassuring” and the number of positive cases were at an anticipated level.

Testing will continue on a twice-weekly basis as the resumption of the season moves closer.

2:04

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden confirms competitive sport can resume behind closed doors from June 1 in England
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden confirms competitive sport can resume behind closed doors from June 1 in England

It’s official – Football is back!

The government has issued health and safety guidelines which will pave the way for elite sport to return behind closed doors in England from Monday.

The rules form stage three of the process of bringing sport back from the coronavirus lockdown. Stage two, which allowed for close-contact training for elite athletes, was published last Monday.

Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “The wait is over. I can now make it official: football is coming back.

“Live British sport will shortly be back on in safe and carefully controlled environments.

“This guidance provides the safe framework for sports to resume competitions behind closed doors. It is now up to individual sports to confirm they can meet these protocols and decide when it’s right for them to restart.

1:49

Dowden says clubs will have to accept playing in neutral venues, if required to do so
Dowden says clubs will have to accept playing in neutral venues, if required to do so

“This is a significant moment for British sport. By working with clinicians every step of the way, we are creating the safest possible environments for everyone involved.”

1:06

Gary Neville believes great strides have been made ahead of football’s return in England and the Premier League returning is a big moment
Gary Neville believes great strides have been made ahead of football’s return in England and the Premier League returning is a big moment

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “The Premier League welcomes the Government’s announcement today.

“We have provisionally planned to restart the Premier League on 17 June, but there is still much work to be done to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

“This includes consulting with our clubs, players and managers – along with all our other stakeholders – as the health and welfare of our participants and supporters is our priority.

“If all goes well, we will be thrilled to resume the 2019-20 season in just over two weeks’ time.”

‘Reserved optimism over test results’

Analysis from Sky Sports News reporter Geraint Hughes…

On the day when the Government gave the green light for elite domestic competition sport to resume on June 1, the Premier League also revealed that the fourth round of COVID-19 testing returned not one positive test.

Even in these early green shoots of recovery towards the resumption of football on June 17, it’s encouraging and pleasing news.

What makes the data even more intriguing is that the latest round of tests saw the largest pool of players and other club staff tested (1130).

1:10

The Premier League’s Project Restart was given a further boost with no positive tests from the fourth round of coronavirus testing
The Premier League’s Project Restart was given a further boost with no positive tests from the fourth round of coronavirus testing

Prior to these latest results, both the Premier League and government had expressed reserved optimism with just 12 positive tests overall.

Now with 3882 tests undertaken in total, the percentage of positive tests drops to just above 0.3 per cent.

In a week when many clubs stepped up their training after the government last Monday allowed ‘close-contact’ training to begin again, these figures will allow for further optimism.

As both the government and the Premier League have been keen to make clear, the health and safety of all players and staff is paramount.

So while there is further cause for optimism after the fourth round of tests, it remains crucial that the rigorous hygiene and medical processes put in place continue to work.

The fifth round of testing is due to take on Monday and Tuesday of next week, following the government now formally allowing elite sport to resume.

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Coronavirus: UK government allows live sport to return behind closed doors from June 1 – Sky Sports

Competitive sport given go-ahead to resume for the first time in three months; remains “up to individual sports” on when it is safe to return; government also allow “up to six” people to exercise outdoors

By Joe Tanner

Last Updated: 30/05/20 6:58pm

2:04

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden confirms competitive sport can resume behind closed doors in England from Monday
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden confirms competitive sport can resume behind closed doors in England from Monday

The UK government has given the green light for live competitive sport to return behind closed doors “in safe and carefully controlled environments” from June 1.

Deputy Chief Medical Officers of England, Public Health England and medical experts across Olympic, Paralympic and professional sports governing bodies have contributed to the latest guidelines which have been revealed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

It follows an update last Monday from the UK Government which gave permission for “close-contact and competitive” training to resume for all sports.

The ‘Stage three’ of elite sport guidance stresses that there will be no spectators present at live sporting events, outlining the health and logistical processes that will need to be put in place to enable events to take place behind closed doors.

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Geraint Hughes reacts to the governments announcement that competitive sport can return from June 1
Geraint Hughes reacts to the governments announcement that competitive sport can return from June 1

The government has published the protocols to ensure social distancing is adhered to at all times at sporting venues, stating that: “all competition delivery partners and user groups involved, from the teams and athletes, to the support staff, officials and media, must travel individually and by private transport where possible.”

The announcement adds that “a screening process” will be in place for those entering venues, dressing room usage and physiotherapy treatment should be “minimised”, and that medical staff must abide by advice from Public Health England regarding medical safety and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

To ensure regulatory standards are met, elite sports organisations and competition delivery partners have been instructed to “appoint a named COVID-19 Officer to be responsible for oversight of all planning and communications.”

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, said: “The wait is over. Live British sport will shortly be back on in safe and carefully controlled environments.

“This guidance provides the safe framework for sports to resume competitions behind closed doors. It is now up to individual sports to confirm they can meet these protocols and decide when it’s right for them to restart.

“This is a significant moment for British sport. By working with clinicians every step of the way, we are creating the safest possible environments for everyone involved.”

The top half of the Premier League with 92 games left to play

The top half of the Premier League with 92 games left to play

The top half of the Premier League with 92 games left to play

Following the announcement, Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said: “The Premier League welcomes the Government’s announcement today.

“All major sports, including the Premier League, have been working together with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to produce this Stage Three protocol.

“We could not have reached this point without the full support of the Government, especially DCMS, Public Health England and the Chief Medical Officer’s team.

“We have provisionally planned to restart the Premier League on 17 June, but there is still much work to be done to ensure the safety of everyone involved. This includes consulting with our clubs, players and managers – along with all our other stakeholders – as the health and welfare of our participants and supporters is our priority.

“If all goes well, we will be thrilled to resume the 2019/20 season in just over two weeks’ time.”

The Premier League is set to return on Wednesday, June 17 after a three-month hiatus due to the suspension of the campaign amid the coronavirus pandemic.

0:52

Newcastle’s Isaac Hayden says the club’s players are happy to return to contact training and can’t wait for the Premier League season to restart.
Newcastle’s Isaac Hayden says the club’s players are happy to return to contact training and can’t wait for the Premier League season to restart.

Sky Sports will show 64 live Premier League games. In addition to the 39 matches scheduled to be broadcast on Sky before the coronavirus interruption, 25 more matches will be available on both Sky Sports Premier League and Sky’s free-to-air Pick channel.

Aston Villa vs Sheffield United and Manchester City vs Arsenal are scheduled to be the first two games when the Premier League resumes next month, with a full round of matches taking place for the first time since the restart on June 19-21.

There have been 12 positive tests recorded following the first three rounds of coronavirus testing for top-flight clubs.

Teams from the Championship, League One and League Two will decide whether to change regulations to allow the season to end on June 8.

In addition, following consultation with clubs, the FA announced the curtailment of the Women’s Super League 2019-20 campaign earlier this week.

At the government’s daily briefing on Saturday, Culture Secretary Dowden also addressed concerns over women’s sport being hit acutely by the impacts of the pandemic.

He said: “Given momentum built up around women’s sport after the football, cricket & netball World Cups, I’ll be working with the sports minister [Nigel Huddleston] to make sure we don’t lose any of that progress.

“Visibility matters and our daughters deserve to see female athletes on the main stage.”

State of play for rugby, cricket, horse racing returns

The first major sporting event is expected to be the 2000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket Racecourse on June 6, while racing at Newcastle on Monday is set to be the first event to take place since sport was halted and lockdown measures were put in place.

Meanwhile, a number of issues still remain unresolved regarding a resumption of competitive action for Premiership Rugby. The PRL has targeted a four-week return programme and has also rejected a trial of World Rugby laws around scrums, tackling, rucks and mauls designed to limit the potential spread of coronavirus.

The West Indies have agreed “in principle” to play their three-Test series at bio-secure venues against England in July, with England naming a 55-member training squad ahead of their return to international cricket.

The ECB has also extended the suspension of the domestic cricket season to August 1.

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Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty suggests the grassroots game may need rule changes before a coronavirus vaccine is found
Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty suggests the grassroots game may need rule changes before a coronavirus vaccine is found

Up to six people able to exercise together outdoors

The government also confirmed on Saturday that in England you will be able to exercise outside with up to five other people from different households from June 1, while maintaining a two-metre distance and adherence to social distancing guidelines.

A safe return for competitive grassroots sport is also being worked towards, as people who play team sports are now able to train outdoors, but “anything involving physical contact is not allowed”, and “outdoor gyms, playgrounds and both indoor and outdoor swimming pools” remain shut.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said: “The coronavirus outbreak has demonstrated to so many of us how important exercise and fitness is, both for our physical and mental wellbeing, and I am hopeful that people will continue to make time for it as life gradually returns to normal.

“This next step will allow more of us to exercise with more people from outside our households providing social distancing is maintained.

“We are working hard to get grassroots sport back up and running safely too, so that people can reunite with their own football, rugby or cricket teammates and get back on their pitches, fields or athletic tracks. But we will only do this when it is safe and appropriate to do so, based upon scientific advice.”

‘This is a landmark decision for UK sport’

Analysis from Sky Sports News reporter Geraint Hughes…

The return of domestic competition for elite sport in England has been the government’s aspiration for almost three months.

Ever since sport was suspended in March, a Cross-Sport Working Group was convened. It was designed to bring together the right people with the right expertise to work through the various hurdles that would need to be cleared for elite sport to return.

Now they have come up with a set of guidelines that carries the safety of the athlete is at its heart.

The ‘opt-in’, not ‘opt-out’ caveat has been a key part of a process that aims to ease concerns from all athletes, whether they are Premier League footballers, cricketers or jockeys.

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Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden says Premier League clubs will have to accept playing in neutral venues, if required to do so.
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden says Premier League clubs will have to accept playing in neutral venues, if required to do so.

Given that the Working Group has some of the most experienced medical professionals from within sport meeting alongside senior administrators, it’s no surprise that delving down into the minutiae of the ‘Step three’ detail is complicated.

There is an onus on individual sports to work through potential problems that could arise around social distancing; for example with football, what happens if there is a dispute between players from opposing sides over a bad tackle or a dispute with a referee over a controversial decision?

Given the guidance in ‘Step one’ & ‘Step two’ with regard to returning to training, importance is now being placed on using common sense and a cool head in competitive sporting scenarios.

Clearly, when live sport returns, it won’t be the same as it was three months ago.

There will be no crowds of course, but the ‘Step three’ protocols approved by the government are appealing for a realisation that behaviours need to be different than they were perhaps prior to the pandemic.

The authorities’ ‘green light’ won’t come as a surprise to the Premier League or any other sport as they’ve been part of the problem-solving exercise, however, it’s one of those landmark moments that has to be reached.

A green light it is, but so much work has still to be done before top-flight football returns on June 17.

As ever with the ongoing and fluid situation surrounding this crisis, should the rate of positive tests for COVID-19 increase and the ‘R’ rate of infection reach one or above, then government may rescind its guidelines and prevent the return of elite live sport.

For the guidelines to work, everyone has to play their part.

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Gabby Agbonlahor: I’ve never felt so ill in my entire life after testing positive for coronavirus – Sky Sports

Ben Grounds

@Ben_Islington

Former Aston Villa forward caught coronavirus in March; Agbonlahor also reveals players are “dropping like flies” with training injuries

Last Updated: 30/05/20 4:18pm

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Former Aston Villa striker explains what it was like to have coronavirus and urges players returning to football to ensure they are tested as often as possible
Former Aston Villa striker explains what it was like to have coronavirus and urges players returning to football to ensure they are tested as often as possible

Former Aston Villa forward Gabby Agbonlahor has revealed he “never felt so ill” in his entire life after contracting coronavirus.

The Villa academy graduate was struck down with Covid-19 symptoms for 10 days in March, but he has now made a full recovery.

Data from the Office for National Statistics that shows black men and women are nearly twice as likely to die from coronavirus as white men and women has led to concern among some players.

N’Golo Kante – whose brother died from a heart attack in 2018 – and Troy Deeney – whose young son has suffered from breathing difficulties – have both opted against returning to training with their team-mates and Agbonhalor empathises with the pair.

“I caught the virus on March 15, and I’ve never felt so ill in my entire life,” Agbonlahor told Sky Sports.

“The symptoms I had, they were terrible, so if I was a player and I was speaking to the players, I wouldn’t want them to go through what I went through as it was a horrible experience and the virus is very deadly as we’ve seen.

“Why would you want to risk yourself and risk bringing it back to your kids? You don’t want to do it. I’m sure the likes of Troy Deeney, N’Golo Kante will be at home or using a local area to do the same sessions that the players at Watford and Chelsea are doing.

Troy Deeney has expressed his concerns on returning to Watford training

Troy Deeney has expressed his concerns on returning to Watford training

Troy Deeney has expressed his concerns on returning to Watford training

“They’re not sitting at home and doing nothing. They’ll still be keeping to the fitness that the other players are doing, but just not doing it at the training ground, which for me is fine.”

Earlier this month, Danny Rose also told the Lockdown Tactics podcast that he felt Premier League players were being treated like “lab rats”.

This week, Premier League clubs voted unanimously to approve a return to contact training, in another significant step towards the resumption of matches “when safe to do so”.

Agbonlahor warned those who have opted into the phased return to close-contact and competitive training: “Make sure you’re being tested.

N'Golo Kante has not yet returned to Chelsea's training ground

N'Golo Kante has not yet returned to Chelsea's training ground

N’Golo Kante has not yet returned to Chelsea’s training ground

“If it’s every day, every two days, so long as there’s multiple testing for every player and every player that’s in your squad is sticking to the rules. So, no one’s going into places they don’t need to be – they’re going straight home from training, then I think it’s different.

“But if you hear the players are doing other things, like going to places where they could catch the virus, then I’d be against going back.

“Some players are not going to have kids, they may live on their own, so it’s different for every player and it’s a decision for them to make on their own.”

‘Players are dropping like flies’

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Gabby Agbonlahor and Mark Schwartzer explain why injuries could be a problem for Premier League players as they prepare for the Premier League’s return.
Gabby Agbonlahor and Mark Schwartzer explain why injuries could be a problem for Premier League players as they prepare for the Premier League’s return.

Even with all the necessary safety measures in place, there are substantive fears of there being a rise in injuries with players not fully prepared for the rigours of competitive football after such a long absence.

In the first two rounds of Bundesliga games back, the injury rate of 0.27 per game has more than tripled to 0.88 per game – a rise approaching 250 per cent – according to Australia-based sports scientist Dr Joel Mason.

Agbonlahor added: “I’ve spoken to a few people at different teams in the Premier League, and they’re saying that the players are dropping like flies. It’s quads, it’s calves, it’s hamstrings.

Jean-Philippe Gbamin suffered an achilles injury in training for Everton

Jean-Philippe Gbamin suffered an achilles injury in training for Everton

Jean-Philippe Gbamin suffered an achilles injury in training for Everton

“The players are not ready for the intensity of training that they’re doing. When you go back to pre-season, you start slowly and you work your way through over six or seven weeks.

“Now, the players are getting three or four weeks and are being rushed in because you might be going to Old Trafford to play against a fully fit Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how many players are going to be fit come June 17 as there’s going to be a lot of injuries.”

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