There has been a spike in positive coronavirus tests since Premier League players returned to training last weekend, with 14 cases recorded at just 12 clubs.
The figures are unofficial – the Premier League is only expected to continue regularly publishing test results when the season resumes on September 12 – but have raised concerns among the clubs.
A particular worry is whether players from different clubs have been mixing together on holiday – some have even, it appears, been sharing and visiting each other’s villas – with many having flocked to southern Europe during their time off. It could lead to more positive tests.
Most clubs have resumed training this week with testing taking place, from last Saturday, as it did so with Project Restart. The number of positive cases is disproportionately high. It is unclear how many are players, but they are understood to be among those who have tested positive. It is also understood that not all cases have been asymptomatic.
To put it in context, the Premier League only recorded 30 positive cases from around 35,000 tests carried out from football resuming to the end of the season as the players and staff followed the strict guidelines.
It has already been revealed that a member of Liverpool’s travelling party to their pre-season training camp in Austria tested positive. The club have not said whether the affected person is a player because of medical confidentiality. All members of Liverpool's group were tested before travelling to Austria and then again on their arrival. Testing has been continuing throughout the camp and no one trained without recording two negative tests first.
As with the other positive cases, the protocols dictate that the person has to now self-isolate for at least seven days.
Liverpool shifted their camp from France to Austria after travel restrictions were put in place, while some clubs, such as Leicester City, have decided they will carry out all their preparations at home, based at their training ground.
All Premier League clubs will be tested in the next few days and, given there is still more than three weeks before the season resumes, the positive tests are not expected to disrupt the preparations for the new campaign which will begin behind closed doors.
However, it is a warning to players and staff that they have to be careful and will have to continue with the strict protocols that were in place for the end of last season.
The Premier League is expected to test players once a week when the season is underway – rather than twice a week as they did last season – and still use a system of clinical passports to show they are clear.
There was always an acceptance that with players and staff going on holiday after the end of the prolonged campaign there may be an increase in the number of cases. An added complication was the need to rush back from France, for example, when it was struck off the UK’s “travel corridor” list, meaning that travellers would have to quarantine for 14 days on their return.