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Clubs in top flight must prepare for fatality, warns leading expert

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FIFA Medical Commission Chairman Michel D'Hooghe. Photo: Kurt Desplenter/AFP via Getty Images

FIFA Medical Commission Chairman Michel D'Hooghe. Photo: Kurt Desplenter/AFP via Getty Images

AFP via Getty Images

FIFA Medical Commission Chairman Michel D'Hooghe. Photo: Kurt Desplenter/AFP via Getty Images

Lurking within every Premier League statement about Project Restart is a supposedly comforting reference to its "priority" of health and safety.

It is a single sentence within the Bundesliga's 50-page medical document, however, that perhaps offers the more realistic analysis.

"The aim must not be to 'guarantee the 100 per cent safety of all participants', since this is likely to prove impossible," it says. Instead, "the idea is to ensure a medically justifiable risk".

In the case of the Premier League, few doubt the possibility of a £762m broadcast rebate has concentrated minds on completing the season within a time frame that makes a full 2020-21 campaign feasible.

Michel D'Hooghe, chair of Fifa's medical committee, has described it as a "fight between health and economic values" and said public health should take precedence over sporting or financial implications.

Gilberto Montibeller, a professor at Loughborough University who specialises in health policy and risk analysis, said: "You have to have this really tough trade-off between health impact and other benefits - the TV rights versus the health of the players."

Vaccine

Montibeller said he would advise the Premier League to think about the fact there is no treatment or vaccine for Covid-19 and there is so much we do not know about the disease.

Montibeller is also adamant the Premier League should be facing up to a worst-case risk scenario of a related fatality and whether that would ever be an acceptable consequence of Project Restart

He said: "My recommendation, as a risk analyst, is having a scenario of a player who tests negative but gets contaminated, becomes a serious case, and to think: 'How will this be seen against the benefits of the game and revenues starting again?' They have to decide what they would do if they open up and something tragic like this happens. Would they keep playing? What would be the next step?

"Thinking this through could impact the current decisions. Even if they are clear on the liability side, they still have to think about reputational damage."

Montibeller, who has worked with the World Health Organisation, United Nations and UK Government, suggests using the resumption of training to assess what spread has emerged and then try to model what might happen in a full return to play.

"Start testing the players now, as if you were playing," he said. "Check what's happening in terms of infection. It would be a reasonable way of gaining evidence before implementing this decision. (© Daily Telegraph, London) "

Telegraph.co.uk