As Premier League football returns this week, the game will look much different to how it did before the Covid-19 crisis.
A summer of football is something that fans across the country had already anticipated but not in the way they expected on Wednesday evening as Premier League football makes its return to our screens. As unprecedented as this event already seems, new rules have been announced due to the effects of Covid-19.
The new safety measures cover every aspect of a match. The field will be divided into different zones, with the tunnel and pitch set to be part of the 'red zone' and open only to those who have had a test within the past five days and operating at a maximum capacity of 110 people. The 'green and amber zones' will then be accessible to the stadiums remaining quota of 222 people, including broadcaster, 25 written journalists and 15 radio broadcasters.
All players and club staff are required to have two tests a week for Covid-19. So far, after more than 8000 tests across eight rounds, there have been 16 positive tests, including two from the latest batch of tests. On arrival at the stadium, every player and essential member of staff will have to present a 'clinical passport' - essentially a barcode which will be scanned to prove they have tested negative for Covid-19 in the previous five days/
In stadiums that only have one tunnel, the away team must emerge onto the pitch first, then followed by the home team. Whilst lining up in the tunnel, the players must remain in a staggered formation and once on the pitch, handshakes between both sets of players will no longer happen, a measure brought in before the league was brought to a halt in March.
For the remainder of the season, teams will be allowed to make five substitutions instead of the usual three, though these changes must be made within three stoppages. Teams will also be able to name nine possible changes instead of the usual seven. The change was approved by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) ahead of the Bundelsiga's restart, to help protect player welfare with fixtures set to come thick and fast as the sport continues its schedule in a restricted time frame and in different weather conditions.
With games being played behind-closed-doors, a number of innovations including tunnel cameras and audio from the coin toss will be in place. Some viewers may also have the option to listen to games with or without artificial crowd noise, but players will not hear the audio effects. It has been revealed that the seats nearest the pitch will also have covers designed by each club 'to improve the environment both visually and acoustically'. The Premier League has also said that live video feeds featuring 16 supporters from each club will be made available to broadcasters and to clubs for use on big screens during matches.
Ball assistants are absent meaning that in some circumstances, players will have to retrieve the ball themselves. It will be down to the referees discretion whether or not the ball can be retrieved without there being a lengthy delay. If not, players will be allowed to use the spare balls that will have been placed around the edge of the pitch.
Social distancing is almost impossible in a game of football, nonetheless, whilst off the pitch and on the bench, players and managers will be expected to adhere to distancing measures set out by the government. Benches will be expanded by using extra seats next to it or distributing where players and staff sit, with zones having been marked out to assist them.
Players and managers will be expected to adjust their behaviours that have almost become second nature to them throughout the course of a football match. These include: no handshakes before or after a game, spitting and clearing of the nose is now forbidden, players and staff must sanitise their hands before and after the game, players must use their own water bottles, mass gatherings with players and the referee should be avoided alongside interactions with the opposition after the match. Players have been advised to maintain distance from one another during goal celebrations and 'where feasible, broadcaster will identify a celebration camera which players can head to after scoring'.
Drinks breaks will also take place midway through each half as signalled by the referee. The break will last no longer than one minute, and the time taken for the break to happen will be added to the end of the half.
With fans no longer allowed in the stadium for the foreseeable future, every fixture will be shown live. Sky and BT will be showing most of the matches, however, for the first time, the BBC will be able to show live coverage of the Premier League. Amazon Prime is another broadcaster that has been allocated several fixtures which they have made free-to air.
Author: Jake Wilkin