Player safety is not being taken seriously as leagues plan to restart

Soccer leagues around the world are gearing up to return, as training in the Bundesliga continues, MLS makes plans for players return to training on a voluntary basis from next week, and the Premier League discusses “Project Restart”, which aims to see matches resume in early June.

Safety protocols will be observed and matches will restart without fans, but one factor is not being given nearly enough prominence: the health and wellbeing of the players themselves.

While there are great financial pressures to resume play, the fact is that many players are concerned about risking their own health, by participating in a contact sport during a time of pandemic.

After all, We have already seen three players test positive for COVID-19 at Cologne, yet training at the German club continues.

Sergio Aguero has said: "The majority of players are scared because they have family, they have children, babies, parents. When we go back I imagine we will be very tense."

Players including Glenn Murray and Conor Hourihane have expressed similar concerns about bringing infection home to their families.

Asking players to completely isolate during this period is not a one-stop solution, either. Kevin De Bruyne, for example, has a pregnant wife and young children—he has said on Belgian TV that he would refuse to leave them for six weeks, and this makes him very anxious to play.

Soccer players are not essential workers, but we’re expecting them to play a game in which they could be exposed to the virus, and to ask them to spend months away from their families.

Just for our entertainment.

Returning to play could have a significant impact on the mental health of anxious players, and let’s not forget it could affect their physical safety.

With only a short build-up of socially distanced training, the players are not going to be at peak fitness.

Injuries will occur more often, and players may pose more danger to one another as their on-field mindsets change.

The issues around player safety could expose clubs to huge legal troubles too, if players make negligence claims as and when they become infected.

And, of course, the necessary testing and resources required to keep the players safe will be scrutinized at a time when levels of testing and personal protective equipment are sorely lacking for the general public in many countries.

Soccer may return soon, but it’s worth noting that we are asking an awful lot of the players involved for the sake of our entertainment.

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