UK culture secretary wants Premier League back 'as soon as possible'
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The U.K. government minister responsible for sports is working with the Premier League to try to accelerate its return, despite the country nearing 160,000 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Monday.

"I personally have been in talks with the Premier League with a view to getting football up and running as soon as possible in order to support the whole football community," culture secretary Oliver Dowden said, according to The Guardian's Paul MacInnes.

"But, of course, any such moves would have to be consistent with public health guidance," he added.

Dowden's determination to revive the soccer season follows reports of the Premier League initiating a plan named "Project Restart," which aims for a June 8 return and to conclude the 2019-20 term by the end of July. As part of the plan, players would be required to resume full training on May 18.

The Premier League will present the strategy to its 20 clubs on Friday. The campaign's remaining matches are likely to be played without fans, so decisions will need to be made regarding whether to host matches at Premier League stadiums or neutral venues.

Further meetings are anticipated this week between the Dowden-chaired department for digital, culture, media, and sport, representatives of Public Health England (PHE), and executives from the nation's biggest sporting organizations, such as the Premier League. The government and PHE will get the final say on whether the medical and safety precautions are sufficient to allow for sports to return.

Arsenal, Brighton & Hove Albion, and West Ham United opened their training facilities on Monday, with each club determining its own ways to adhere to the government's social-distancing rules. Tottenham Hotspur's squad returns to its Enfield base on Tuesday and, like West Ham, the club will only allow solo running exercises.

The desire to get players back onto the pitches at the earliest opportunity isn't shared throughout the country. Scott Duxbury, the chairman and chief executive of Watford, said he's not ready to entertain the sport's return until the strain of COVID-19 on the National Health Service (NHS) has eased.

"I feel uncomfortable at this stage even talking about football because there are people dying every day, there are stresses on the NHS, and that has to be the priority," Duxbury shared with The Guardian's Simon Burnton.

"Do I want to resume football? Absolutely, and when it's safe and the government says it's fine and all the players and support staff that follow football can return, then I'm 100% behind that. But at the moment I feel all efforts have to be on beating the pandemic and supporting the NHS."

The United Kingdom has suffered 21,092 deaths related to the coronavirus, which is the world's sixth-highest mortality rate.

UK culture secretary wants Premier League back 'as soon as possible'
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