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Return to training: The finer details


June 14, 2020

Return to training: The finer details

On Monday, Les Aiglons will be back to the training ground, to begin their pre-season for the 2020-21 season. The return to training will be like no other and will be done in stages, in accordance with strict protocols in light of the Covid-19 crisis. What awaits the players, staff and the people that work with them? Jean-Philippe Gilardi, Head of Medical at OGC Nice, provides the answers.

First of all, how will Monday play out?
Players, coaching staff, security staff, the communication team and the reception staff: everyone will be given a slot to arrive at the training ground in 15 minute intervals, for a ‘drive through’ test in the tents between 7.50am and 2pm. A sample with be taken from the nose and a full test will be carried out by the club doctors. Nobody will be allowed to stay on site, without prior permission. Additionally, the players will not be allowed to stop to speak to fans in front of the training ground as they would usually do, where from a medical point of view, it would be preferable that nobody congregates.

Kit will be provided to the players and staff and they will return this kit when leaving the training ground. Every two hours, a courrier will come to collect the samples and take them to the lab, so that the results will be available in the evening. 56 people will be tested, including 28 players. It’s essential that everyone respects the times they are given for the test and that the requested measures are respected (social distancing, disinfecting hands, wearing masks) in order to limit the risks of contamination, both at the club and in the various places that the players will need to visit.

On Tuesday?
Those people whose test result is negative will be called to the training ground, with specific appointments, for blood tests, dental and optical checks. On Wednesday, cardiological tests will be conducted in the surgery.

These first three days will be busier than usual…
After what has just hit the country, it’s essential we do so. That’s why we will be mixing traditional tests with the Covid-19 test, while always maintaining the necessary protections. In the first three days, our objective is to have a very precise vision of everybody’s conditions. It’s the prep work that allows us to prepare for what is to come. If some players have come into contact with the virus, they will have other tests to avoid any after-effects when returning to training and in order to protect others. The idea is to create a bubble around the first team, limiting contact with the outside.

After these three days, will the squad be able to get back out onto the pitch?
Not the squad, but the players will, on an individuel basis, from Thursday (18 June). Depending on the results, those that are allowed to, will be able to begin the training that has been prepared for them by the technical staff. In that sense too, there will be very strict rules in place - no access to the building, an evaluation by the medical staff upon arrival, temperature controls, moving direct from the car park to the pitches and vice versa - avoiding the contact between players. These measures are seeking to protect the players and coaching staff and will be reviewed in line with government’s recommendations. Today, for example, we need a space of 2 metres between players when static and 10 metres when running. That has significant implications.

What are the plans for accessing the dressing rooms, for example?
It is not planned for this week, but the social distancing will need to be respected. If necessary, we will also be able to use the Academy dressing room, because the youngsters haven’t returned yet. It’s the same thing for the coaching and medical staff. For the time being, until the government provides further guidance, we are trying to think of every eventuality. We will know more on 22 June, when group training should be able to get back underway.

Above and beyond the first team, you have worked to protect all of the members of staff at the club?
We have been constantly liaising with Frédéric Jadot (Head of Facilities), especially in terms of the management of staff movements, so that the members of staff can return to work in the best possible conditions. We spoke often and we are still talking so that everything is in place in order to protect those working for OGC Nice. At the training ground, there is a one way system in place, from the entrance to the exit. Hand sanitiser will be available throughout, toilets closed, only one in three showers will be available, because the steam helps to carry the virus…

In short, we have been thinking, we are analysing and adapting and that will continue. But the priority in the short term is really the first three days of testing. We will make our plans for the future known a little later, depending on the official guidance.

Have you been speaking with your counterparts at other clubs before the return to training?
Of course. We have an association of L1 doctors*, so what one club is putting in place, will be similar to the others. We have also participated in a forum with the medical teams for the various INEOS teams. Several professions took part in the session: the coaches, the doctors, fitness coaches, dieticians (etc.) from the worlds of football, sailing and cycling. Our counterparts are based in England and across Europe, the situations are entirely different and the conversations were constructive. That is also a plus which helps us to prepare well.

*L’Association des Médecins des Clubs Professionnels de Football (The Association of Professional Football Club Doctors)