Premier League clubs have voted for a return to training this week in a much-needed boost to Project Restart following weeks of talks.
Players at a number of top-flight clubs are already back training individually, but they will now be allowed to work together in groups of five from Tuesday as long as social distancing rules are followed.
Premier League officials needed at least 14 positive votes to press ahead with phase one of the return to training, in which all contact between players is banned.
Players will be allowed to train in small groups from this week but no contact will be permitted
Liverpool’s players are set to return to Melwood this week after more than two months away
Corner flags, balls, cones, goalposts, playing surfaces and other equipment will be disinfected after each training session, while social distancing must be ‘strictly observed’.
Players will be tested for coronavirus twice a week and they will be required complete a temperature check and fill in a questionnaire before each session.
During a video conference call involving all 20 clubs on Monday morning, it was agreed that it was safe for players to return to action.
In a statement, the Premier League said: ‘Premier League Shareholders today voted unanimously to return to small-group training from tomorrow afternoon, the first step towards restarting the Premier League, when safe to do so.
‘Step One of the Return to Training Protocol enables squads to train while maintaining social distancing. Contact training is not yet permitted.
‘This first stage has been agreed in consultation with players, managers, Premier League club doctors, independent experts and the Government.
‘Strict medical protocols of the highest standard will ensure everyone returns to training in the safest environment possible.
‘The health and wellbeing of all participants is the Premier League’s priority, and the safe return to training is a step-by-step process.
‘Full consultation will now continue with players, managers, clubs, the PFA and LMA as protocols for full-contact training are developed.’
Other rules in phase one include players not travelling with anyone to or from training, while the use of public transport and team vehicles is banned.
Stars have been given a condensed version of a 40-page document which lays out the new safety protocols for training sessions, which will be a maximum of 75 minutes each.
A number of clubs will test players and staff for the disease on Monday with a view to returning to training on either Wednesday or Thursday.
Clubs have told their players their results should be available 24 hours after their tests.
A return to training was discussed by clubs, managers, players and officials from the Professional Footballers’ Association and League Managers’ Association last week.
Every player who returns to training will need to provide written confirmation that they have received and agree to their club’s Covid-19 operational policy.
Spurs boss Jose Mourinho is desperate to return to training and wants to resume the season
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has played a key role in talks with Premier League officials
Each club must also appoint a dedicated ‘Covid-19 officer’ who is not a member of their medical staff to oversee player and staff safety during the return to training and when the campaign restarts.
The Premier League hope to resume games in the second half of June, although they are willing to extend the season until the end of August in order to complete it.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain on Monday morning, Watford captain Troy Deeney explained how training rules are likely to be eased in the coming weeks.
He said: ‘Phase one is social distancing individual training with a coach. That’s no problem, that’s like going to the park. Phase two will be next week six days of training three to six people training together with contact and then six days after that you’re going into 11 versus 11 and you can’t social distance with 11 verus 11.
‘I would say 98 per cent [of players] are very much aware that phase one is very good, I would say 65-70 per cent of people are concerned with phase two. I’d say even higher after that.’
Watford captain Troy Deeney has hit out at the Premier League’s plans for Project Restart
Although the majority of players are expected back this week, some managers are likely to be without stars who have concerns about returning to contact training, or who live with family members who are vulnerable to coronavirus.
A number players have expressed concerns about returning to action too soon, with Manchester City star Raheem Sterling, Brighton striker Glenn Murray and Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger among those to speak out.
Newcastle boss Steve Bruce has also shared doubts about the plan to return to training and is not convinced players will be fit enough to play games next month.
‘We’ve listened to what has been said and, with the precautions taken, we will get back to work and start phase one,’ Bruce told The Telegraph.
‘Can we get to that stage where we can have all the players on the pitch together? We don’t know yet.
‘Phase one will be mainly fitness work, four or five players on a pitch. Let’s see how we get on [and hope there are no infections].’