Troy Deeney backlash to EPL return plan
Troy Deeney is one of several players to have voiced disapproval over the Premier League's return plans. Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA.

Premier League clubs returned to small-group training on Tuesday afternoon despite results showing six unnamed players and club staff have tested positive for the coronavirus.

A statement confirmed that of the 748 tests administered across May 17 and May 18, around 0.8 percent of players and club staff were carrying the virus:

“Players or club staff who have tested positive will now self-isolate for a period of seven days.
“The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and oversight.
“No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the Premier League due to legal and operational requirements.”

Results were released on the same day that squads were able to return to training in limited groups, and with social distancing measures in place. The Premier League confirmed on Monday that shareholders had voted unanimously in favour of the change, although contact training is still not permitted, via Goal:

A decision to allow small-group training was given the green light following consultation with club doctors, industry experts, players, coaches and the government.

The United Kingdom has recorded more coronavirus-related deaths than any other European nation and is second only to the United States worldwide. The official figure stood at just over 35,400 as of Tuesday, per data collated by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. However, the Office for National Statistics said on the same day that the national death toll since the beginning of the outbreak is almost 55,000 above the average of the past five years (via Chris Giles of the Financial Times).

The plan isn't without its critics, however. Chelsea strike Tammy Abraham has expressed concerns over passing coronavirus to his father, who suffers from asthma. Watford captain Troy Deeney has been one of the more vocal figures to oppose the return to training out of concern for his son, who has had respiratory issues. He spoke to Matchroom Boxing’s Talk The Talk podcast regarding his decision to abstain:

German football returned to action on Saturday (May 16) after more than two months suspension, and the UK government has cleared a way for the Premier League to follow suit in June, with the 12th mooted as a potential comeback date.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters stressed earlier in May that “safety comes first” in regards to the season restarting, adding that should happen “only when the conditions are right.”

England’s top flight has 92 games remaining and is plotting a schedule that could see the 2019-20 campaign concluded by the end of July.