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Gary Neville voices fears over football's plans: How many have to die?

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville fears Premier League players' lives will be at risk, if football is rushed back too soon after the coronavirus lockdown in Britain.

EPL chiefs are aiming for a return to action in June and several clubs opened their training grounds to players this week as they work on "Project Restart".

The English top flight is understood to be aiming to run a huge testing operation to keep footballers safe, with reports of 26,000 tests being lined up for players and staff.

But Fifa's medical chief Michel D'Hooghe said on Tuesday that football should not be played until September and Neville is worried that EPL players will be endangered by the rush to return.

"The Fifa medical officer said that football should not take place before September. I think if it was a non-economic decision, there would be no football for months," Neville said yesterday on Sky Sports Football Show.

"People are now assessing risk. How many people have to die playing football in the Premier League before it becomes unpalatable? One? One player? One member of staff goes into intensive care? What risk do we have to take? The discussion is purely economic."

Neville voiced his concerns over the risk to players with existing medical conditions.

"If health comes first, there is only one outcome at this moment... How many players have got asthma? How many players have diabetes?

"Have they assessed all of these things and are they willing to put those people at risk?"

The UK is among the worst-hit countries in the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 21,000 deaths. The country is on lockdown until at least May 7, but government officials are eyeing a potential return for football if the virus is under control.

Full training is reportedly slated for mid-May, with the plan to be discussed at a stakeholders' meeting tomorrow. - AFP