Championship players at seven clubs will be asked to conduct coronavirus tests on themselves either at home or the training ground.
The English Football League (EFL) distributed its initial protocols last week. BBC Sport has since obtained a 26-page document from one of the Championship clubs, which reveals that after first assessment at training grounds on Thursday and Friday, subsequent tests should be “self-administered” at home on the morning of training on two specified days each week.
There is a flexible approach to testing, with some clubs having them conducted by independent testers, others conducted by club medical staff and then a group asking players to do self-testing.
The EFL is hoping clubs can return to phase one of training from Monday, but the protocol says that players who test positive and are not showing symptoms must “isolate for 14 days”.
Those who test positive and do have symptoms have to “isolate for seven days” and would then face no further antigen testing, while those who are negative but do have symptoms should “isolate for seven days, then retest”.
This is different to the Premier League. In the top flight, there were six positive tests from the first round of testing of players and staff, but those affected have to isolate for seven days.
Before training can resume, Championship players will have to actively “opt in” to the first phase of training, in accordance with the government’s guidelines.
They will do so by providing written confirmation they have received the “Covid-19 operational policy” and agree to take part in training.
The protocols, which follow EFL guidance, say that players “will have the opportunity to ‘opt out’ of the policy at any stage”.
The document covers the pre-return preparations, the plan for the Covid-19 Antigen Testing (CAT), and what the small group training will look like.
Similar to the Premier League, Championship clubs will have to train in small groups of five for a maximum of 75 minutes, with 15 minutes allowed for warm-up and recovery.
Footballs, GPS units and other equipment will be disinfected before and after sessions, with social distancing between individuals essential at all times.
The protocols also say:
- It is “recommended as few footballs and equipment used as possible”;
- “Tackling” and “any opposed activities” are prohibited;
- Equipment will be disinfected where necessary, including “cones, goalposts, mannequins, GPS units, balls and gloves”;
- PPE may be required, including “mask and gloves” when injured players enter the gym and “coaching staff will be asked to wear gloves during sessions”;
- Players will be told not to “chat in groups” and will not be allowed to use ice baths, showers or have “non-essential treatment”;
- Players will have designated parking spaces, will have to arrive in their own kit and bring their own drinks and towels.
The protocol outlines that the “initial testing” will be carried out at the training ground, and that players will be provided a five-minute time slot for their test. They will also be given their training kit and football boots during this visit.
It goes on to say: “Following the initial test, subsequent CATs will be self-administered and are to be performed at home on the morning of training on two specified days each week.
“This forms part of the latest EFL guidance and will ensure minimal risk of cross-infection.
“Players and staff will be provided with instructions and guidance to assist with performing this.
“Samples must be handed to the medical staff on immediate arrival at the training ground so that they can be couriered to the designated lab.
“The testing laboratory and kits have been selected by the league and, as such, we are not in control of these.”
Another requirement before the first day of training is that each player will have a brief medical examination with the club doctor, where they will measure heart and lung auscultations [sounds], as well as oxygen saturations.
EFL guidelines also require players and staff to complete a daily medical questionnaire on training days. This has to be submitted before arrival at the training ground, otherwise they will be denied access.