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Contact training in elite sports could get government approval ‘later this week’

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Rui Patricio and his Wolves team-mates are among the Premier League players who have returned to ‘small group training’ this weekThe return of contact training in elite sports could get government approval “later this week”, says culture secretary Oliver Dowden.He said the guidance for the second phase of training is waiting to be signed off…

Wolves keeper Rui Patricio

Rui Patricio and his Wolves team-mates are among the Premier League players who have returned to ‘small group training’ this week

The return of contact training in elite sports could get government approval “later this week”, says culture secretary Oliver Dowden.

He said the guidance for the second phase of training is waiting to be signed off but he is hopeful this will come “very shortly”.

Phase one, which covers small group training with social distancing being maintained, was approved last week.

Premier League clubs have since called players back to training grounds.

Dowden also announced a “renewal task force” to help industries bounce back from coronavirus, including former England women international Alex Scott, to “help us think through how we can get sport back safely in a way that works for both clubs, players and supporters alike”.

His comments about the plans for phase two of training are likely to boost the ambitions of sports trying to complete seasons, given it is expected to permit elements of training such as tackling.

The Premier League had previously identified 12 June for matches to possibly start again, but there is now an expectation this will need to be pushed back.

Speaking in Wednesday’s daily government briefing, he spoke of the “three-fold” process for getting competitive sport back.

“First of all we have already issued the guidance for carrying out training behind closed doors, that is non-contact training, those guidelines have already been published earlier this week,” he said.

“I hope, subject to the sign-off by Public Health England and others, we will then later this week, very shortly, get the guidance about how we can have training in a contact environment, this is for elite sports, so they can start to build-up.

“The final stage would then be the guidelines as to whether they can resume behind closed doors. In doing that we have been guided by the health advice and I can update you again, today, for the fourth time, there were meetings between elite sports and Public Health England to find out how we can do it safely.

“If we can do it safely I’d like us to be able to get it up and running towards mid-June if that is possible.”

‘Some Premier League free-to-air’

Dowden also said he thought there could be a “win-win situation” regarding the broadcasting plans for the rest of the Premier League season, with some games shown free-to-air.

He said that not having the TV blackout at 3pm on a Saturday allowed for a “degree of flexibility” in how matches are shown.

“That creates an opportunity for us to be able to get some sport, some Premier League free-to-air,” he said. “Those discussions are ongoing, I’m having productive discussions a couple of weeks ago, now I had the latest one with Premier League, the EFL and with the FA.

“I hope we can sort this out and I also hope then we can get some more money going into the sport of football. I think we could find ourselves in a win-win situation.”

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