Italian football took a tentative step towards returning after prime minister Giuseppe Conte announced that sports teams would be allowed to resume group training from May 18.
Conte gave a wide-ranging television address on Sunday during which he said the country, which has been one of the nations worst affected by coronavirus, was due to enter the second phase of its pandemic response.
As part of a gradual shift away from lockdown there is new guidance for athletes, who can begin training individually from May 4 including travelling away from home for sessions. At top-flight level, major clubs may be able to host multiple players at a time at training grounds without breaching rules on social distancing.
Team activities are set to be given the go ahead 14 days later in what would represent a milestone moment in the road to continuation of the 2019/20 season.
A total of 12 full rounds, plus four games to level the current standings, remain in the Serie A season with Juventus a point ahead of Lazio at the summit.
In quotes carried by Corriere Dello Sport, Conte is reported as telling the public: “To allow a gradual resumption of sports activities, training sessions for athletes, professionals and non-professionals recognized by CONI (Italy’s Olympic Committee) will be allowed from May 4, but only in compliance with the rules of social distancing, avoiding gatherings.
“On May 18 we also plan to reopen the team training.”
Conte added that sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora would join experts in plotting a path for football to return though pointed out that any resumption of competitive matches would be determined further down the line.
“(Spadafora) will work intensely with the experts of the scientific technical committee and with all the components of the football system to find a path that has already been defined in part for the resumption of individual training from May 4 and the resumption of team activity from May 18,” he said.
“Later we will evaluate if there are the conditions to allow the conclusion of the championships.”
Wolves forward Diogo Jota, meanwhile, insists it is important for the Premier League to focus on completing the season, regardless of decisions made elsewhere in the world.
In England the option of voiding the competition has been taken below National League level and for all women’s football beyond the Championship, with Holland’s Eredivisie taking that route on Friday and Belgium’s Pro League awaiting ratification of a similar decision.
Portugal international Jota, who defeated Reds defender Trent Alexander-Arnold to the ePremier League Invitational FIFA20 tournament over the weekend, has made it clear where his priorities lie.
“We don’t need to look to other countries. Each country has its own problems and has to deal with them individually,” he told BBC Sport.
“Although some leagues can end right away, others can start sooner. I know almost every country in the world has the Premier League as one of the leagues to watch so it is major that we can finish the season.
“Obviously health is first and when everything is ready to go we can finish the season. Everyone wants the fans in the stadium…maybe we need to go step by step and the first step is to play behind closed doors.”
Wolves are sixth in the table after 29 games, two points behind Manchester United in the race for Europa League football. Should that battle resume in the coming months, Jota believes there will be a sense of uncertainty given the lengthy interruption.
“Anything can happen because it will be like a new season,” he said.
“When it starts, it will be like a pre-season for the players because when you don’t play it’s impossible to be as fit as you were.”
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