Championship clubs are set to receive the results of the first batch of Covid-19 testing carried out across the division on Sunday. It is hoped the data will create a sense of reassurance ahead of the second tier’s scheduled return to small group training on Monday.
All senior players and staff have been swabbed by independent testers over the past 48 hours (ie on Thursday and Friday) with the outcomes expected on Sunday in order to facilitate the reopening of training grounds 24 hours later.
The newly published English Football League medical and safety protocols enable teams to save more than £1,000 a week by subsequently allowing players or club staff to self administer the twice weekly mandatory procedures involving the extraction of samples from the back of the nose and throat. Around eight teams, Middlesbrough included, are understood to have opted for this system but two thirds of their counterparts will rely on testers visiting their training grounds.
Apart from preparing for a resumption of the season pencilled in for 20 June, players must submit to daily temperature checks and complete medical questionnaires every 24 hours.
Strict physical distancing has been imposed at every club with communal areas, including canteens, remaining closed although there is scope for players to collect takeaway food for home consumption from training ground kitchens.
All personnel must use one-way walkways to navigate their workplaces, thereby avoiding unintentional close contact, spitting is strictly banned and physiotherapists are advised to wear personal protective equipment when treating injured players.
The protocols – designed in conjunction with the testing company Nationwide Pathology – necessitate managers adjusting to staging tactical meetings by either video or telephone conference.
With League One clubs still to decide whether they want to resume the current campaign or follow League Two’s example and conclude it now, third tier players will not be returning to training on Monday and cannot do so until they are tested.
The EFL has stressed that the use of Nationwide Pathology dictates there will be no impact on NHS resources. Although the number of tests taken and positive cases revealed will be made publicly available, no individual club data will be released with players and staff entitled to anonymity unless they wish to waive it.
“There will be a flexible approach to testing, with a combination of procedures conducted by independent testers, club medical staff and some self-testing as required,” the EFL said in a statement. “The accuracy of these tests is aligned with government guidelines and will not prevent other individuals from receiving a test.”