Spanish league wants mini-camp, testing before resuming

Sports

Real Madrid players attend a training session at the team’s Valdebebas training ground in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. Real Madrid will play against Manchester City in a Champions League soccer match on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

MADRID (AP) — The Spanish league is putting together a detailed plan to get teams ready for when the league restarts, recommending a mini-preseason and a large number of tests for players, their close relatives and club employees.

The 19-page “protocol” prepared by the league gives the first glimpse at what some of the top European leagues may be preparing for when the competitions resume following the coronavirus pandemic.

The plan is not yet finalized but a draft of the Spanish league’s document was obtained by radio network Cope. The four-phase plan has a series of recommendations that will be presented to clubs before players can return to practice, something that the league suggests may happen even while Spain remains in lockdown because of the outbreak.

The league isn’t expected to restart until government authorities deem it safe for everyone’s health, but the document details actions that could be put in place in confined facilities such as training centers or team hotels, thus not breaching lockdown measures.

Spain has been hit hard by the outbreak, with more than 110,000 cases and 10,000 deaths.

The league initially suspended two rounds of games in March, but the stoppage was extended after the government declared a state of emergency that is expected to last at least until April 11. Players and members of several Spanish clubs have been infected by the coronavirus in the last few weeks.

According to the document, the league recommends a “minimum of 15 days” of practice before the games can resume, with only essential personnel participating in the sessions.

The four stages of the protocol contemplate a preparation phase that would be followed by solo practice sessions, smaller group sessions and finally full-squad sessions. The league says the basic principles of the protocol were put together “to guarantee the safety” of players, their close relatives and the clubs’ staff and workers.

Before training resumes, the league says two sets of COVID-19 tests should be performed on club employees, coaches and players, in addition to their family members. Players can be tested at home or at drive-thru locations made available to them.

Everyone at the training facilities would have to be identified with accreditation indicating whether they are “high protection” members — players and those with close contact with them — or “medium protection” personnel, which would include security members and other employees.

The league protocol has detailed sections on how the clubs must operate areas such as the kitchen, laundry room, changing room, gym and physio room. The document says the cook must be in charge of opening the kitchen, which has to be cleaned by a single person. Only one person can operate the storage room, and another the laundry facility.

The gyms will initially be limited to those with injuries, and only one or two players can use it at a time, depending on the size of the facility.

The league recommends the use of several buses to transport players when needed, with one person sitting every five rows and always wearing masks and gloves. The clubs will send food to players’ homes so no one has to leave for groceries. The league says access to players’ and coaches’ homes should not be granted to anyone not living there.

During the solo training sessions, players should be told what to do at night and the next morning will drive by themselves to the training facilities — always using the same vehicle and already wearing the training uniform.

Only two players will be allowed on the training field at a time, and they must exercise on opposite sides. No more than eight players should be at the training facility at the same time, and the players’ arrival must happen 15 minutes apart.

The league says players should always wear gloves and masks until starting their training sessions. Gloves should also be used during the solo sessions when possible. A few members of the training staff will be allowed to watch the solo sessions from a distance.

During the group sessions, the squads will be divided in three groups of eight and the clubs again will be encouraged to test players for COVID-19 if they deem necessary. Three changing rooms will be used in each training session, with no more than three players sharing them at a time. Each player will have a designated shower and place to change.

The players’ training material on the field should be at least 5 meters (16 feet) apart, and the league recommends the sessions be prepared in a way that “social distancing” guidelines are maintained to reduce the risk of contagion.

Meals will be left on bags with the players’ names or jersey numbers, and they must eat inside their rooms, which is where they must stay at all times without any direct contact with other players.

The full-squad sessions will mean a return to normalcy, though strict hygiene measures will have to remain in place and tests for COVID-19 can still be performed. Personnel should still wear gloves and masks, and no more than two players should share the same area in the gym or the physio room.

“At this stage, it will be essential not to let the guard down and to continue with these hygiene measures through the end of the health emergency,” the league said in the document.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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