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Akanni urges NPFL to learn from European leagues as EPL resumes today

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Former International, Waidi Akanni, has urged the League Management Company (LMC) to learn from the formula used by European leagues in resuming their competitions to restart the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL). He argued that the more advanced countries have shown that football could be played without health risks to players and officials.

Akanni, who expressed excitement over the expected return of the English Premier League today after over two months of COVID-19 induced break, said the European countries have set the pattern other leagues should follow to ensure risk-free football.

The Coronavirus pandemic led to the suspension of all sporting activities, including football leagues across the world.

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The German Bundesliga returned two weeks ago, while the Spanish Laliga and Italian Serie A returned at the weekend. The English Premier League resumes today with Arsenal meeting Manchester City in a rescheduled game.

Akanni rued the effects of COVID-19 on sporting activities, adding, however, that sports starved fans are now eager to see a return to competitive football, including the NPFL.

“It is an exciting time for us to at least see the game come back on TV for a start and later on the return of spectators. That is exactly what we saw when the Bundesliga matches started.

“I saw the Barcelona game on Saturday and of course my favourite, the English Premier League will resume soon. One just has to wait for this and then you enjoy yourself,” he said, adding that it was also an opportunity for commentaries on the various leagues and the players.

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Akanni said it would be nice to see the NPFL in action, adding, however, that the country has a peculiar case, which made it impossible to predict when the league would resume.

“We cannot compare our clime with that in Europe and elsewhere. I think the LMC should work out something around it no matter how difficult it’s going to be.

“My advice is that LMC should look at all possibilities that can be worked out to ensure that the league comes back on time. But they will need our support to bring back the NPFL,” he stated.

Akanni said adopting the protocols employed by the European leagues, including health passports, would help to safeguard everybody involved in league matches.

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The English Premier League has adopted health passports as part of the conditions fans need to access the stadiums. It said the health passports could pave the way for fans to return to stadiums next season.
Premier League players and staff will all be armed with the health passports from today in order to gain access to the red zones at stadiums.

According to standard.co.uk., grounds have been divided into three separate zones; green, amber and red, with only 110 people – all of whom will have provided a negative test for coronavirus – allowed inside the latter, which covers the players’ entrance, changing rooms and the pitch.

Those entering the red zone, which ranges from players and coaches to VAR operators and club media staff, must have registered a negative test in the five days prior to the game.

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Prenetics, the company providing and carrying out the testing for Premier League clubs, have developed the health passport, which will give each player and staff member their own personal code, which can be scanned to show that they have tested negative for COVID-19. The passports will be accessible on each individual’s phone and will grant them access to restricted areas of the stadium in order to keep the grounds as bio-secure as possible. It is hoped that the software could be rolled out to supporters next season, allowing fans to return to stadiums sooner than expected but in a safe environment.

Earlier this month, Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, called on all Premier League stakeholders to work together to find a way to bring supporters back into grounds.

“It is imperative that we now all work together – scientists, technologists, the government and the live events sector – to find a safe way to bring spectators back to sport and entertainment venues,” he said.

“Collectively we have the ability to support the development of new technologies to make this possible and to once again experience the passion of fans at live events.”

So far the Premier League have carried out 8,687 tests on players and staff, with 16 individuals returning positive tests. Those who test positive must self isolate for seven days and provide a negative test result before returning to training and matches.

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