Premier League football clubs on Wednesday voted unanimously to return to contact training, including tackling, as the English top flight moved a step closer to a resumption after the shutdown caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
A statement, following a meeting of all 20 clubs, said: “Squads are now able to train as a group and engage in tackling while minimizing any unnecessary close contact.
“The Premier League’s priority is the health and wellbeing of all participants.”
Failure to resume the season could cost the league around 750 million pounds ($921.75 million) in lost revenue from broadcasters according to British media estimates.
Clubs last week began the first phase of ‘Project Restart’ after agreeing to a return to training in small groups under strict limitations and no contact.
The announcement that Phase Two can commence followed 1,744 tests on players and staff for coronavirus which produced eight positives, including Watford defender Adrian Mariappa and Bournemouth keeper Aaron Ramsdale.
A third round of testing took place on Monday and Tuesday with another four positives, the Premier League said.
No matches have been played in the Premier League since March when the coronavirus pandemic shut down world sport.
However, Wednesday’s vote is a big step towards the league completing the 92 remaining fixtures.
On Thursday Premier League shareholders will discuss the business aspects of ‘Project Restart’, including a possible broadcast rebate and what to do if the season is curtailed.
Some reports said clubs could lose out even if the league restarts should broadcasters demand a 330 million pounds rebate.
Phase Two allows up to 10 players to work together and would ease the time restrictions on training sessions and let players to be closer.
The third phase would be a move to a more typical form of training in the build-up to actual games.
The league had signaled June 12 as a potential start date but it now looks likely to be later in the month. Matches would be held without fans in attendance.