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British government eyes mid-June Premier League return

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LONDON, United Kingdom, May 18Britain’s Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is hopeful the Premier League can resume by mid-June despite concerns raised by players and coaches over the need for an extended period of training before matches restart.

Premier League clubs are meeting on Monday to sign off on protocols that will allow a return to training this week, whilst maintaining social distancing guidelines.

The last top-flight match in England was on March 9 and Newcastle manager Steve Bruce said on Sunday his players could “fall down like a pack of cards” with injuries if matches return before the end of June.

England international Raheem Sterling also expressed his concern at a quick turnaround between a resumption of training and playing matches.

The Premier League have reportedly been aiming for a return on June 12.

Dowden insisted public safety remained the priority, but is also hoping a restart is only around a month away.

“I had some very constructive discussions on Thursday with the FA, the EFL (English Football League) and the Premier League,” Dowden told Sky News on Monday.

“We are working hard with them to try and get it back, aiming for mid-June, but the number one test is public safety.

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“They, like a lot of other sports we’re looking at returning behind closed doors, have met with Public Health England several times to look at the safety.

“If we can sort that out then we will look to resume by mid-June. We’re making good progress.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament last week that the return of sport on TV would “provide a much-needed boost to national morale”.

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Germany’s Bundesliga has returned behind closed doors © POOL/AFP / Martin Meissner

The resumption of Germany’s Bundesliga over the weekend has raised expectations that the Premier League can follow suit despite the drastically different scale of the health crisis in both countries.

In the UK, the government’s official rolling tally of fatalities is nearing 35,000 compared to just under 8,000 in Germany.

Nevertheless, the Bundesliga is proving a test case for the Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’.

English clubs who resisted a proposal for the remaining 92 matches of the campaign to be played at neutral venues will have been heartened that there were no significant problems with supporters turning up near stadiums in Germany for the restart.

If the protocols are passed in Monday’s meeting, Premier League players can return to non-contact training later in the week.

However, former Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro warned of the risks being taken with players’ health without yet knowing the consequences COVID-19 could have on athletes.

“We simply do not know how the virus affects athletes,” said Dr. Carneiro.

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“From my experience, football does not have a culture of embracing and observing medical governance which, now more than ever, is required to ensure compliance.

“Not only in the short-term, but in the medium and long term, when fatigue with the new protocols sets in.”

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Ministry sets up team to prepare for sports resumption in the country

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 2 – The Ministry of Sports has set up a team led by Principal Secretary Joe Okudo to prepare for resumption of sports activities in the country once the COVID-19 situation is dealt with, Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed has stated.

Sports activities were halted in the country in March with all public facilities closed as the country battled to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

And with European countries and a section of African nations slowly starting to open up their spaces for resumption of sports though under strict guidelines, Kenya has not been left behind with the Ministry constituting a machinery.

“We have constituted a team to look at it and they will be advising on when to open. The team is led by the PS and of course working closely with the Ministry of Health so that we ensure when we return we do so within safe parameters,” CS Amina said on Tuesday.

While all football league seasons have been cancelled, there is hope for some other sports. In rugby, the Kenya Cup was headed to the play-off stage and despite an earlier decision by the Union to cancel the season, clubs appealed and the decision was lifted.

The men and women hockey leagues were just getting started while the basketball league had been scheduled to start in April. In Athletics, the track season had just gunned off and last week, Athletics Kenya said they would be consulting with the government to set up a new calendar.

Kenya is set to host its first ever event since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic on June 11 when five athletes, anchored by 1500m World Champion Timothy Cheruiyot will compete against the Norwegian Ingebrigtsen brothers in a virtual race.

The Norwegian contingent will run in Oslo while Cheruiyot’s team will run at the Nyayo National Stadium where they have been training for the past one week.

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Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa and Tunisia are among the first African countries to announce plans to resume sports with the COVID-19 situation slowly losing pace.

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Sports CS AMina Mohamed with Care Package founder Jackie Jan Mohamed

Amina spoke at the Nyayo National Stadium as she helped distribute food packages to women athletes from football, cricket, rugby and the Paralympics in partnership with Care Package foundation, run by former Cricket Kenya chief Jackie Jan Mohammed.

“It relieves some of the challenges they were facing of trying to meet some basic needs and we have got some good response with people coming on board. We would like to reach about 1,800 who are most vulnerable and so far we have reached almost 1,000,” said CS Amina.

Meanwhile, Jan Mohamed said they hoped to be doing the exercise every two weeks depending on whether they get increased funding from their partners.

“When the ministry approached us about athletes, I couldn’t say no. Sports is a passion I have had for a long time. What I am looking at is, depending on funding, we might turn around and tell the ministry that every two weeks, we will meet these same athletes, until we fight COVID-19,” she stated.

At the same time, Amina says they will continue with distribution of the monthly stimulus package to sportspeople, having started off last week with the Kenyan premier League players.

Amina says that so far, 1,300 athletes have received their first share of the 10,000 stimulus with 600 more having benefited over the weekend.

“We have received very good feedback and we want to thank the President for launching this package,” Mohamed noted.

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1,800 athletes to get government upkeep package

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By AYUMBA AYODI

The Sports Ministry is targeting 1,800 sportsmen and women in its Covids-19 financial stimulus package and food distribution across the country.

Sports cabinet secretary Amina Mohammed disclosed Tuesday that by last weekend, they had reached out to 600 sportsmen and women, who have received Sh10,000 each and food packages.

Amina rolled out the stimulus package last week with 12 Kenyan Premier League clubs being the first to benefit from the initial release of Sh20 million stimulus. The government has set aside Sh50 million to cushion sportsmen and women from Covid-19 effects. 

Amina was speaking when she presided over the distribution of food packages by Care Package Organisation to 200 sportswomen drawn from six disciplines at the Nyayo National Stadium.  

Amina, who commended Care Package and their other partners for the initiative, said they have so far received supporting totaling Sh 20 million from the private and public sectors towards the Covid-19 athletes support program.

“We shall continue with these initiatives until Covid-19 eases and the sporting calendar reopens,” said Amina, who was accompanied by Sports Principal Secretary Joe Okudo and Care Package founder Jackie Janmohammed.

Also present were Kenya Rugby Union (chairman) Oduor Gangla and National Paralympic Committee of Kenya president, Agnes Oluoch.

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Among the sportswomen who benefited were from Kenya Lionesses, Harambee Starlets, national cricket team, national deaf team and Paralympics.

“The packages could be small but we hope it will cushion them for some days and it’s my hope that more partners will come on board,” said Janmohammed, who was among Kenyans who were conferred with the Wazalendo Award on Madaraka Day by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Janmohammed said she would like all the athletes in the program to be receiving the food packages after every two weeks until Covid-19 is eradicated and the sporting calendar resumes.

“That will depend on how much funds are raised and I believe in sustainability. This shouldn’t be a one-off affair,” said Janmohamed adding that they have also reached out to 6,000 families in the last two months.

Gangla commended Care Package initiative and the government’s stimulus package that have seen the national team players benefiting. 

“Most of these players derive their livelihood from rugby and that has been disrupted. Every one of them is fighting to make ends meet,” said Gangla, who also thanked cubs that are supporting their respective players at these difficult times.

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FA unlikely to take action over peaceful anti-racism protests

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LONDON, United Kingdom, Jun 2Premier League players are unlikely to face disciplinary action if they take a knee or make any other peaceful anti-discrimination protest when the English season resumes.

The shocking death of George Floyd, killed when a white police officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck in Minneapolis last week, has provoked riots and protests across the world.

Football stars, including Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, have shown support for the Black Lives Matter cause during matches.

The English Football Association will adopt a “common sense” approach to political gestures, slogans and statements if players or staff publicly back the movement once the Premier League restarts on June 17.

It is understood taking the knee after a goal, as Borussia Monchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram did on Sunday, would be unlikely to attract any sort of sanction.

“The FA strongly condemns discrimination of any kind and has endeavoured to ensure that football in England is both diverse and inclusive in recent years,” an FA statement said on Tuesday.

“Where any behaviours or gestures on the pitch that may constitute a breach of the Laws of the Game have to be assessed, they would be reviewed on a case by case basis with a common sense approach and understanding of their context.”

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Following the example of Liverpool on Monday, Chelsea and Newcastle players were the latest teams to take a knee in a show of solidarity during training sessions on Tuesday.

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Newcastle defender DeAndre Yedlin, a United States international, posted a series of heartfelt tweets on the situation.

“A couple days after George Floyd’s death, my grandfather texted me and told me he’s glad that I am not living in the U.S. right now because he would fear for my life as a young black man,” he wrote.

“Every American needs to ask themselves, is there ‘liberty and justice for all’ and if their answer is yes, then they are part of the problem.

“In no way are we asking black lives to matter more than white lives. All we’re asking is we are seen as equal, as more than 3/5 of a man, as humans.”

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