West Brom return plan held up as start date looms

Albion’s attempts to organise friendly matches ahead of the season’s restart are on hold as they await the green light to enter full contact training.

Slaven Bilic (AMA)
Slaven Bilic (AMA)

Baggies boss Slaven Bilic is keen to play two warm-up matches before the Championship campaign resumes on the weekend of June 20. But the games can only take place once clubs have begun the third and final phase of the EFL’s training protocols.

Albion were given permission to begin phase two of the protocols, which allows players to engage in some contact, earlier this week.

But the go-ahead to enter phase three, which permits full contact and 11-a-side matches, is now not expected for Championship clubs until next week. That is hampering efforts to arrange friendly matches, with the Baggies having already agreed a date to face Stoke – which must now either be rescheduled or cancelled entirely.

Several Premier League clubs are also thought to have enquired about facing Albion in a warm-up fixture but no firm plans can currently be made.

The top flight is a week ahead of the Championship in preparations for restarting, though the bulk of clubs in both divisions are now set to resume their seasons on the same weekend.

Delays in organising friendly fixtures has further frustrated those in the Championship, who believe the June 20 date is too early.

The EFL announced the provisional date in a statement on Sunday night to which clubs were given less than an hour’s notice.

Albion are not among the dissenting voices and, with a promotion still to be won, are eager to get the season restarted. But they still face the prospect of scheduling two friendly matches into an increasingly narrow window.

Much like those in the Premier League, the EFL’s training protocols are fixed tightly to the extensive testing of players and staff taking place at every club and the process is being followed closely.

Albion and the rest of their Championship rivals initially resumed small group, non-contact training at the start of last week.

When friendly matches are permitted they will be subject to strict protocols, with clubs in the Premier League told they can travel no more than 90 minutes from their base.

Players will be required to make the journey in their own cars, possibly in their kits, while the games would need to be refereed by members of coaching staff.

Risk assessments would also be required of stadiums and training grounds before the matches could take place.

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