London (AFP) – No spitting and no handshakes — the Premier League season resumes on Wednesday looking very different from three months ago.
Amid the coronavirus crisis, the Premier League have issued detailed guidance before the big kick-off, stating: “Strict protocols have been put in place to ensure that stadiums are as safe as possible for everybody present.”
AFP Sport takes a look at the new rules in place:
About 300 people will be allowed into stadiums for each of the remaining 92 matches of the season.
Grounds will be divided into three zones: red, amber and green. Each zone has unique protocols and procedures.
Only those who have undergone tests in the five days before a match can enter the red zone in any stadium, which includes the pitch, technical area, tunnel and dressing rooms.
Those individuals must have a “clinical passport” — a bar code that shows their most recent test result is negative -– before being granted access.
Players and staff are required to undergo daily screening for the virus. Before leaving for a match, they must complete relevant checks for COVID-19 and report any symptoms.
Teams can travel to the stadium via car, coach, plane or train, but must do so in sterile environments and must observe social distancing.
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder, whose team visit Aston Villa in the opening game of the relaunch on Wednesday, said: “We are going on three buses. The main guys are on the first one, so you will see the team from who gets off first.”
Players and staff will be given a sterile route from their vehicles to the dressing rooms, which must have enough space to allow for suitable social distancing.
Teams will be encouraged to stagger their use of changing rooms. Showers can be used, as long as individuals remain socially distanced.
Sheffield United will not use the away dressing room at Villa Park and have instead been allocated a press room and players’ lounge to change in.
“We are changing in a big media room at Villa Park, not in the changing rooms and our players have to stay two metres apart when there is a break in play,” Wilder said.
At some stadiums, teams will use different tunnels. Where there is one tunnel, players and match officials will stagger their journeys to and from the pitch.
Widespread disinfection will take place including of changing facilities, dugouts, matchballs, goalposts, corner flags and substitution boards.
People other than players and coaching staff on team benches must wear face coverings.
When teams line up for the Premier League anthem, players will now stand in a staggered formation.
The traditional handshakes between the two teams will no longer happen and there will also be no handshakes at the coin toss.
Trainers’ benches will be expanded to enable social distancing during matches.
Players have been told to maintain distancing during goal celebrations. No spitting or nose-clearing is allowed and players will use their own water bottles.
In the Bundesliga, Hertha Berlin defender Dedryck Boyata found himself in hot water last month after grabbing the face of team-mate Marko Grujic.
Boyata apologised, saying players had to “adapt” to the new rules.
Premier League players have also been told to avoid mass confrontations with opponents or match officials and to try to restrict interaction with opponents after the match.