FIFTY players could snub the Premier League’s Project Restart – over fears they could catch Covid-19 and pass it on to family members.
Footballers are still unhappy over plans to resume the sport on June 12 and many may pull out as they quite rightly put health and family before their careers.
⚠️ Read our coronavirus in sport live blog for the latest news & updates
Testing is due to start on Thursday as Prem players start training sessions ahead of a return to matches.
But now clubs have expressed their fears that some players will reject this return as they wait for the country to become safer and less chance of contracting the virus.
The Mirror claims one club admitted that they expected “two to three players” from each club to snub a return to training and then playing matches.
Ninety-two games are left to be played in the Premier League.
Watford are the latest club to slam the Prem plans for Project Restart.
Hornets chief executive Scott Duxbury told The Times: ““There are 20 different vested interests which sometimes align but more often than not work purely to protect each individual club.
“That is why some clubs are happy to sign up to Project Restart because arguably there is only an upside in participating in this compromised format; it means Liverpool can win the title, other clubs can book their place in Europe next season or potentially fight their way up the table from a position of safety.
“But when at least six clubs — and I suspect more — are concerned about the clear downside and the devastating effects of playing in this kind of distorted nine-game mini-league, then I believe the Premier League has a duty of care to address those concerns.
“In the world of Covid-19, there is no such thing as an entirely safe environment wherever we play.”
Brighton striker Glenn Murray and Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero have already expressed fears about returning to training and matches.
This figure could escalate as more and more players are under pressure to reject the Prem’s formula to get the games played.
Footballers will be asked to sign agreements with their clubs so they are not liable for insurance pay-outs should players contract the illness and pass it on.
Many stars have young children or are living with or near old or vulnerable relatives and could pass the virus onto them if they catch it by mingling with fellow stars or through physical contact.
One unnamed Prem star admitted he feared catching the virus and passing it onto his six-week-old baby and loved ones with underlying health conditions.
Brighton chief executive Paul Barber also confirmed that they have several players who have voiced concerns, including a player whose partner has a “serious medical condition”.
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has insisted that he would accept players not wanting to play if they had objections and would not judge them.
The Korean K-League kicked off on Friday and gave an insight into how matches will be played: No fans, masked substitutes and coaches and no joint goal celebrations or spitting.
Premier League chiefs will hold a presentation on Monday so clubs know how things will progress during matches.
Talks will then take place on Thursday between the PL and the Government, when top-flight chiefs hope to get the OK for a June 12 restart.
But Seagulls chief Barber warned: “The players have a really reasonable and fair number of questions to ask about their own personal safety and that of their families. We as their employers have got to be able to answer those questions.
“We have a player whose partner has a serious medical condition – we need to understand if he doesn’t want to play or refuses to play where we stand on that.
“We also need to understand what the players’ feelings are on whatever protocol we agree.”