Coronavirus: Welsh Government not planning to block football restart

Liberty Stadium
Swansea City last played a game at the Liberty Stadium on 7 March

Wales' First Minister says he is not planning to block Cardiff City and Swansea City from restarting their season in the EFL Championship.

Mark Drakeford was speaking on Friday as the Welsh Government published its roadmap out of lockdown.

Plans for reductions of restrictions does not give a date for when elite athletes can resume training or for possible games behind-closed-doors.

Mr Drakeford says it is "not our aim" to prevent cross-border competitions.

"If it is possible safely for Welsh sports clubs to take part in competitions that are being re-opened then our ambition will be to make sure we can play our part in making that happen," he added.

"It would be under the broad umbrella we have talked about all the time: safety and public health measures first, but if those are in place and our sports teams are able to take part we will not want the rules in Wales to be a reason why they cannot do that."

Sport is a devolved issue in Wales and, unlike England, Welsh ministers are yet to publish guidelines on a phased return of elite sport training.

The UK Government document on easing lockdown restrictions in England also gave a date of no earlier than 1 June for any games behind closed doors.

The EFL has already outlined protocols for a potential return to training for Championship clubs on 25 May with a target of resuming the season on 13 June.

Cardiff and Swansea are understood to have sought clarity from Welsh Ministers on the matter, while the EFL have begun discussions with Welsh Government.

Those talks have been described as "constructive" while the Welsh Government roadmap document says that sport is included in the areas where "partners" will be consulted over the next 10 days "to develop a common understanding of what needs to be done to prepare for the gradual reduction in restrictions".

EFL clubs would have to implement their own safety protocols which will include - but not restricted to - phased increase in the size of the training groups, regular Covid-19 testing, daily screening, no tackling and disinfecting equipment.

Cardiff City manager Neil Harris has told BBC Sport Wales they are "desperate" to finish the season but admits players have concerns over a potential return to action and that more answers were needed.

Elite athletes in Wales are also awaiting further guidance with their return to training not yet given the official go-ahead.

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At the same press conference, Mr Drakeford added: "We're very keen to support our elite athletes here in Wales and that's why we're having the conversations we are having and they will need a set of rules that allows them to operate in their particular context while keeping their safety and the safety of the wider community at the forefront of everything that we do."

Following today's announcement, Brian Davies Sport Wales interim CEO said: "At present we are urging everyone in Wales to adhere to the restrictions for sport and exercise that have been set out by Welsh Government.

"We have been working with our partners in the sport sector, together with Welsh Government, to determine how to best adapt their offers when restrictions ease and the guidelines allow the introduction of elite level and grassroots sport.

"The focus is on protecting the health of those taking part as well as the wider community. Sporting bodies will communicate changes to their individual sports when guidance suggests it is safe to do so."

The Welsh Government is next due to review current lockdown regulations by 28 May.