A third first-team player from Brighton & Hove Albion tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, the Premier League club’s chief executive Paul Barber has confirmed.
Two players from the south coast club, which includes Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan and playmaker Aaron Mooy among its senior squad, had contracted the novel coronavirus in March and April and the latest positive result could cast doubts on the Premier League’s plans to resume the season that has been suspended due to the pandemic.
Clubs are due to meet on Monday to further discuss “Project Restart”, which envisages a return to play in June once given the green light from government, with the remaining 92 matches held behind closed doors at neutral venues.
The Premier League has been suspended since March 13.
👇 "The safety of players and staff is top of that list.
"Then there’s a series of things: Where will the games be played? When can we start? When can the players train to make sure they’re not at risk of injury? How will the games be aired?"#BHAFC 🔵⚪️
— Brighton & Hove Albion (at 🏡) (@OfficialBHAFC) May 10, 2020
Relegation-threatened Brighton is one of three clubs – together with Watford and Aston Villa – to have objected to the remaining Premier League matches being played at neutral venues.
It was scheduled to play five of its final nine matches at home.
The vote to decide on playing at neutral venues is likely to be held later in May, with 14 of the 20 clubs required to vote in favour for it to be adopted.
But Barber expressed more immediate concerns for his players’ safety.
“It is a concern. Unfortunately we’ve had a third player test positive yesterday,” Barber told Sky Sports on Sunday.
“So despite all of the measures that we’ve been taking over the past few weeks, where the players haven’t been involved in any significant training at all, we’ve still suffered another player testing positive for the virus.”
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero had said a number of players would be fearful of resuming the season amid the virus outbreak with more than 4.02 million people infected globally and over 276,000 dead.
It was fanciful for football to think there weren't going to be positive tests – but that's likely going to be the case for months. Surely the approach now is (as I'm told is the German approach) to plan for that and try come up with sophisticated solutions around it.
— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) May 10, 2020
“There are concerns and I think it’s normal for all clubs to have those concerns,” Barber said.
“We want to make sure we do everything that we can to ensure those protocols are in place and are safe and secure and mitigate the risk as far as we can.”
Brighton, which is 15th in the standings, has five home games left including visits from Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal.