Apologies for the pun, it was a very positive test result for the Premier League on Tuesday. Especially since there were not many positive tests.
Only six of the 748 taken across three clubs, half in Watford, included two employees.
So despite future revelations about who and where the virus struck, and with Norwich yet to report, this was as good as the Premier League could have hoped. A higher infection rate (0.8 percent) than the 10 positives of German football over 1724 tests (0.58 percent) performed in the top two levels, but it would never be perfect.
Six of the 748 Premier League players and staff tested positive for coronavirus when training returned
Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson from Liverpool will return to training base Melwood on Tuesday
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta arrives at the club’s London headquarters in Colney on Tuesday
Indeed, it could have been considerably worse, since this country has been compared to Germany. Brighton has been running their own tests in recent weeks and initially had three positives in 13. So as the disease is abating in some parts of the country, football reflects this gradual withdrawal.
Certainly, there was little in the news from Tuesday to suggest that the game made a big mistake that was entertaining a return for the time being.
There are still problems and questions to be answered. But if football can track participants from here and ensure there is no spike when training resumes, it’s far from inconceivable that the 2019-20 season can be completed this summer.
Of course it is still up to individuals to return. Danny Rose has spoken out again, saying soccer players are treated like lab rats. Troy Deeney says he will not return to training at Watford until he receives guidance on whether additional care will be given to BAME players who are believed to be at greater risk.
But many of these concerns could just as easily have been answered by experts outside the game. The catch-all BAME vulnerability, for example. Black and Asian people are not all one group in terms of genetic susceptibility.
Indeed, when hospital deaths were measured by ethnicity until May 5, those who identified as Asian outperformed whites and blacks.
Research into how and why people are affected by the coronavirus is still in its infancy, and alleged weaknesses can still be explained by social conditions surrounding skin color rather than genetic makeup.
Ethnic minority groups experience higher levels and earlier onset of the chronic health problems that cause coronavirus complications. This is because minority groups often suffer from inequalities in wealth, housing and employment, all of which are potential contributors – but not those likely to affect Premier League footballers.
There were few results indicating that the Premier League made a big mistake
Deeney’s concerns are understandable and need to be addressed – especially given Watford’s news on Tuesday night – but the sectors of the BAME population disproportionately attacked by Covid-19 may not include wealthy young professional footballers.
Likewise, it is disturbing to hear stories about tests that were not available with the all-new schedule. Such an early failure is disturbing. The logistics organization must be flawless if football is to gain the confidence of those who are expected to work its way through this crisis.
When players feel unprotected or health and safety are not the priority, the deal is broken.
The Bundesliga looked safe over the weekend and the Premier League has to live up to that standard and more.
Troy Deeney has called for greater clarity on how coronavirus affects players from ethnic minorities
But what is clear here is that English football has a chance. It was Javier Tebas, president of La Liga, who last week condemned clusters of coronavirus infection in Germany. After the entire Dynamo Dresden squad was quarantined, Tebas said, “What happened in Germany cannot happen and, moreover, it will not happen in Spain.
“It is impossible for a club to have five positive things at the same time. If it does happen, it is due to negligence or non-compliance with health protocols. ‘
Of course insufferably smug, but he has a point. With less than one percent of tests returning positive, there really is no excuse for the virus to go through soccer uncontrollably. If clubs, managers, coaches and players adhere to the guidelines, if returns are measured and stable, if behavior outside the training area is responsible, there is no reason why football cannot continue to recover.
Javier Tebas (R), La Liga chief, was right when he said no club should have five things at once
Bundesliga games were played behind closed doors over the weekend, without thousands of fans gathering outside. The public is now well versed in protocols and procedures. They line up for supermarkets, they keep respectful distances on the street.
Those who want football to return certainly don’t want to end the season by ignoring the safety concerns. It seems more and more often that clubs will play on their own grounds and with clear messages supporters will not compromise security.
So testing remains the key and Tuesday was a promising start. Now it must be maintained – the safe environment, the clear instruction, the necessary reassurance. Failure in any of these goals and football will not return and, more importantly, will not deserve it.
Bundesliga games were played behind closed doors without fans coming out